Thursday 17 October 2019

Taoiseach set for collision course with Lucinda Creighton over abortion

He said that removing suicide clause would be 'unconstitutional'

PARTING OF THE WAYS: Lucinda Creighton and Enda Kenny are at odds over the abortion legislation
PARTING OF THE WAYS: Lucinda Creighton and Enda Kenny are at odds over the abortion legislation

Lise Hand in Waterford and Michael Brennan

The Taoiseach is set on a collision course with junior minister Lucinda Creighton after he said that removing the suicide clause from the abortion bill would make it "unconstitutional".

He  refused to comment openly on the growing row between his government and the European Affairs Minister, saying he "wouldn't deal with any individual in public, obviously the Fine Gael is one party, it deals with its own matters internally".

But he confirmed that the suicide clause will remain in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill.

"We're very clear here, that the question of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision. We as a government and I as Taoiseach, am not able to unpick that Supreme Court decision and therefore to attempt to do so would first of all render the bill unconstitutional," he stated.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly also rejected her demands.

Another of her amendments calls on the Attorney General to represent the unborn if a woman is appealing a refusal of an abortion request. And she also wanted time limits to be put in place -so that an abortion cannot be carried out in the late stages of pregnancy.

But Dr Reilly's amendments do not meet any of these demands.

His two key amendments merely change the language and emphasis of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill” - rather than changing the actual content. One amendment emphasises the need for doctors to preserve both the health of the mother and the unborn baby as “far as practicable” when considering if an abortion is necessary. But this requirement was already in the bill.

There is another amendment from Dr Reilly which makes it clearer that it is an offense to intentionally destroy human life. However, the bill still clearly allows doctors to carry out abortions if the mother's life is at risk - including from the threat of suicide.

The European Affairs Minister looks set to lose the party whip when the final vote on the abortion legislation takes place on Wednesday, after the war between her and senior party members became increasingly acrimonious over the weekend.

It now looks likely that she will follow the four Fine Gael TDs who voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill last week out of the party and on to the Independent back benches.

The Taoiseach was speaking at the launch of the new JobsPlus scheme in Waterford which is focused on fining jobs for the long-term unemployed.

Under the new incentive, the State will cover approximately €1 in €4 of the typical cost of hiring someone who has been on the dole for over 12 months.

Commenting on the controversy sparked by the junior minister, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said: "This is government legislation and like all pieces of government legislation, all members of the two government parties are expected to vote for it and to support it. I've read and seen and heard the speculation but to be honest I think we should wait until the vote is called before anybody makes any prediction about who will and who won't vote in favour of it or not vote in favour of it".

Also at the JobsPlus event alongside the Taoiseach and Tanaiste were Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.


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