Thursday 18 January 2018

Zappone in Cabinet rift over abortion

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Damien Eagers
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Damien Eagers

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has found herself once again at the centre of a Cabinet rift over the issue of abortion.

Ms Zappone raised concerns over the Government's plans to oppose a bill that proposes the replacing of a 14-year jail sentence for abortion with a €1 fine.

The Cabinet yesterday failed to take a position on the bill, which was tabled by Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.

Fine Gael sources said concern was expressed that supporting the bill could have "unintended consequences". Attorney General Máire Whelan, who was at Cabinet for the discussion, agreed to provide Ms Zappone with further legal advice before tomorrow's vote.

Fine Gael figures are confident Ms Zappone will support the Government in opposing the legislation.

The same sources emphasised that under the Constitution, the right to life of the unborn is given the same status as the mother. This is contained in the Eighth Amendment, which is currently being scrutinised by the Citizen's Assembly.

Proposing the motion in the Dáil, Ms Smith criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny's earlier suggestion about the implications of the bill.

Mr Kenny had said that it would mean someone who kicked his pregnant partner in the stomach, resulting in the loss of the child, would be merely fined €1.

"That is very twisted and silly. We are not suggesting that someone who commits grievous bodily harm or assault be open to a €1 fine," Ms Smith said.

Junior Health Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy last night tabled a "reasoned amendment" to the motion that would see Ms Smith's bill declined a second reading in the Dáil to allow the ongoing Citizen's Assembly to complete its deliberations.

Irish Independent

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