| 5.4°C Dublin

Taoiseach calls for caution as life-support family go to court


Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned against any "knee-jerk reaction" to Ireland's abortion regime in light of the case of a pregnant woman being kept on life-support against the wishes of her family.

Mr Kenny described the case as "absolutely sensitive" and said the family in question must be experiencing untold "trauma" and "stress".

It has emerged that the parents of the woman, who is in her 20s, are due to take a case to the High Court next week.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, has made himself available for the hearing.

It is understood that members of the woman's family may seek an order allowing for her life-support machine to be switched off.

The woman is 17 weeks pregnant.

The foetus is alive but is well below the threshold where it could be expected to survive outside the womb.

Doctors have sought legal advice on what action they can take as they believe they are prohibited from shutting off life-support by the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which gives equal rights to the life of the mother and the unborn child.

The case dominated political circles yesterday.

Speaking in Brussels, the Taoiseach said the issue of the eighth amendment is one of "grave importance" to the woman's family.

But he insisted that the Government cannot react in haste and must give careful consideration to the "complexities" involved.

"What I can say is that this is an absolutely sensitive case," he said.

"Let anybody put themselves in the position of this family, with the trauma and the stress and the pressure that's involved here.

"I do not want to say anything about this individual case here."


Mr Kenny was pressed over whether the Government will change the law in light of the case.

"Many of these are very sensitive issues and I have no intention of having a knee-jerk reaction or an immediate reaction to something as personal, as complex and as sensitive as this and I don't think you'd expect me to," he said.

Labour Party deputy leader and Environment Minister Alan Kelly said the authorities are dealing with a "very sad case", but he added that he does not foresee the prospect of the eighth amendment being repealed in the lifetime of this government.

Tanaiste Joan Burton said that matters relating to the eighth amendment require "very careful consideration and debate".

Also, speaking on the matter, Health Minister Leo Varadkar admitted he was aware of the case prior to the delivery of a speech in the Dail on Tuesday during which he said the eighth amendment has a "chilling effect" on doctors.