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Lise Hand: Enda dithers – and the women of Ireland burn

ENDA fiddles about while the women of Ireland burn. There was such a waterfall of waffle flowing from the government side of the Dail chamber, that the inescapable conclusion was that WB Yeats got it wrong – this is a perfectly fine country for old men, sure haven't they been running it for years?

But it's a damn chilly country for young women.

This seventh Government doesn't have the option of running away from abortion, so instead it has decided to tie itself in panicky knots of Gordian proportions.

When the A-bomb exploded eight days ago with the revelations about the death of Savita Halappanavar, there was a great deal of confusion and emotion amongst both the public and politicians.

But over a week later, confusion still reigns at political level. The Government hustled to set up an inquiry into the death of Savita in University College Hospital Galway, but failed to first consult with her bereaved husband, Praveen.

Inevitably, upon hearing that three of the members of the inquiry are staff at the hospital where his wife died, Praveen made it clear that he would refuse to co-operate with the HSE probe.

And so the three consultants were removed forthwith. But yesterday morning at Leaders' Questions, the only question was where the heck is a bit of leadership to be found at all?

Why, Micheal Martin wanted to know, had no one from Government been in contact with the Halappanavar family. It was, reckoned the Fianna Fail leader (who himself, let it be remembered, was Health Minister in one of the do-nothing governments) both "inexplicable and beyond acceptable".

Across the chamber the Taoiseach flapped and flailed. "There is a lot of confusion around what is happening here," he said truthfully. "I read the statements attributed to Praveen Halappanavar. I have never met the man – I understand he is a very decent understanding individual," he added.

And so Enda deemed it appropriate to contact this decent man from his seat in the national parliament. "I would appeal directly to Praveen Halappanavar to meet the chairperson of the investigation team, without prejudice, because it is very necessary that the truth of these circumstances be found out," he stated.

Neither he nor his colleagues appeared to realise that the HSE inquiry is a lame duck before it ever quacked to life, and what Praveen has a right to expect is a wholly independent, transparent and immediate inquiry.

If a complex guarantee can be put in place overnight to rescue our entire banking system, then surely it shouldn't be beyond the abilities of a government to expedite such an inquiry?

The Taoiseach declared, "I hope this can happen quickly." Maybe he should stop hoping and start demanding.

And when that inquiry is complete, he should grasp the abortion nettle firmly, no matter how it stings.

The only way to reassure Irish women about giving birth in Ireland is to legislate – legislate, not pussyfoot – on abortion.

Make Ireland a good country for women. Now that would be a legacy to be proud of.

Irish Independent