Tuesday 24 April 2018

Spotlight on Sinn Féin as clear majority of TDs rejects 12-week proposal

Dáil Éireann. Stock picture
Dáil Éireann. Stock picture
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Legislation to allow for abortion up to 12 weeks will not pass through the Dáil unless Sinn Féin changes its party policy.

Analysis by the Irish Independent shows there is currently a clear majority of TDs against abortion on demand.

While a majority favours repeal of the Eighth Amendment, just 54 out of 157 TDs, excluding the Ceann Comhairle, would actually vote the regime proposed by a cross-party Oireachtas committee.

A survey of the TDs shows 73 are against abortion up to 12 weeks, while 30 are undeclared.

Among those against the unrestricted terminations are Sinn Féin's 23 TDs.

Unlike Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the party has not given its members a vote of conscience on the issue.

At its ard fheis last November, the party's ruling body rejected a motion calling for women to have access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Instead members said abortions should only be permitted in cases where there is a threat to a woman's life, health or mental health is at serious risk or in grave danger, fatal foetal abnormality and rape or sexual abuse.

Ahead of that vote, Sinn Féin's vice president-elect Michelle O'Neill described this as "a fair position, the right position, which supports people who find themselves in troubled circumstances".

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The party must now have a special ard fheis if it is to change tact ahead of the referendum.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin's health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly criticised Tánaiste Simon Coveney for his support of repeal but opposition of 12 weeks.

She said his position was "massively confusing" and "does nothing but muddy the waters".

However, Fine Gael colleagues of Mr Coveney have noted that his position is closer to that of Sinn Féin's than the Government's.

Of the main parties, Fine Gael has the largest number of TDs in favour of the Oireachtas committee's recommendations.

Eighteen Fine Gael TDs back the report, compared to 11 against.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's party also has the greatest number of undeclared politicians, with 21 refusing to state their position.

Fianna Fáil is four to one against 12 weeks. Just eight of its TDs, including party leader Micheál Martin, back the full reform, compared to 32 against and four undecided.

In his weekly message last night, Mr Varadkar warned that there is only one outcome from the referendum that will be "compassionate and has empathy".

"If there's a 'Yes' vote, the Oireachtas will be able to reform and liberalise Ireland's abortion laws, thus ensuring that this becomes a matter for women and their doctors.

"If there's a 'No' vote, things will stay as they are and difficult cases will continue to be decided by the courts, and women will continue to have to travel or continue to import medicines online."

Irish Independent

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