Varadkar 'undermining' debate on abortion with mixed messages
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been accused of “undermining” the work of the all-party committee on repealing the Eighth by sending out mixed messages.
On the first day of the new Dáil term, Fianna Fáil has accused Mr Varadkar of showing a lack of leadership.
However, Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Mr Varadkar is joined in the ranks of those causing confusion by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
The Dáil will tomorrow begin a two day debate on abortion – but the leaders of the two main parties are not expected to participate.
Mr Howlin said: “I think that’s unfortunate. I think it is not giving leadership. We need clarity. The all-party group made their recommendations a month ago now. We’ve all had the opportunity in some detail to read it, to reflect upon it and to discuss it with people.
“And we should give leadership to people now in relation to this really important issue that has been on the agenda for three decades in this country.”
Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher defended his party leader, saying Micheál Martin would make his views known in due course.
But he said the real onus was on the Taoiseach to outline the process that will lead to a referendum.
Last week Mr Varadkar has said the proposals brought forward by an Oireachtas committee to legislate for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks may go “one step too far”.
However, last night he told a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators that the committee’s report was the “strong option” on the table. The Cabinet has already agreed that Health Minister Simon Harris should begin work on potential legislation for a GP-led abortion service.
Mr Kelleher said: “Over the last number of days I’m very confused and primarily that has arisen because of the Taoiseach’s comments. I’m disappointed in him truthfully.”
The Cork TD, who sat on the Oireachtas committee, added: “Our Taoiseach has to show leadership and decisiveness on this issue, one way or the other.
“I think that at this stage it is undermining the process.”
He argued Mr Varadkar is attempting to offer “a view that falls on different ears for different reasons”.
Similarly Mr Howlin said there is no sense “that this has been carefully thought through by a working politician”
But he added: “I have to say the same about Micheál Martin.”
Mr Howlin argued that TD are in Leinster House to legislate. “They are the shapers of the legislation. They should have views on it unless you are suggesting that the Taoiseach should watch and see what the rest of the Oireachtas does before he makes up his mind. Is he not a shaper of the legislation?”