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Labour TDs set to miss abortion vote


Joan Burton

Joan Burton

Joan Burton

A number of "frustrated" Labour TDs look set to be absent from the Dail for the vote on Clare Daly's abortion bill today, party sources suggested last night.

TDs are unhappy with the party's stance to oppose the bill, which seeks to allow abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

A number of TDs, who did not wish to speak publicly have told the Herald that unless they get satisfactory answers at a private party meeting ahead of the vote, they intend abstaining from the vote.

The Government is opposing Ms Daly's bill after Attorney General Maire Whelan ruled that it is unconstitutional, but yesterday there were calls from the Labour backbenches for the party to get a second legal opinion.

Wicklow TD Anne Ferris and Clare TD Michael McNamara have both indicated they could go as far as voting against the Government, which would see them lose the party whip.

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan said party members are seeking a second legal opinion that suggested that the Eighth Amendment may be quashed. He plans on raising this at the special briefing for TDs today.

Tanaiste Joan Burton and Communications Minister Alex White will advise party members as to the parameters of Ms Whelan's legal opinion. Ms Burton's spokesman and chairman Jack Wall last night ruled out any second-guessing of the Attorney General.

Ms Burton met with party chairman Jack Wall and whip Emmet Stagg yesterday to organise the details of today's party meeting. But party members are demanding answers.


Dublin Mid-West TD Robert Dowd said he was left "frustrated" by lack of a free vote.

"I'm in favour of it passing but I can't vote yes when there is a constitutional conflict. It's very frustrating," he said.

"We are being held up by a constitutional impediment that was implemented back in the '80s, purely to hold up any real progress on this subject," he added.

Junior Minister Kevin Humphreys said he, too, would have looked for a free vote had it been constitutional.

On the issue of people abstaining from the vote and whether they would face any punishment, Mr Humphreys said: "We will discuss that at the meeting."

Super Junior Minister Ged Nash said he remains extremely sympathetic to those affected by the present legal situation. He said his position has not changed since he and 13 other party members called for the Eighth Amendment to be changed in 2012.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he would favour the Attorney General's advice being released.