Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is facing a Fine Gael revolt against the proposed abortion bill with a fourth deputy set to vote against his party in parliament.
The Sunday Independent reports that Terence Flanagan will refuse to sanction the legislation unless his concerns over suicide provisions are met.
The paper says that Kenny is now facing the largest political revolt over a single issue by a government party since Fine Gael’s PM Liam Cosgrave voted against his own party on contraception in 1975.
The report says Flanagan has had a lengthy meeting with Ireland’s Attorney-General to discuss the proposed legislation.
He is the fourth Fine Gael deputy to openly state that he will not vote for the bill in its current form
Peter Mathews, Brian Walsh and Billy Timmins have openly declared they will not support it unless the suicide clause is removed.
Flanagan told the Sunday Independent: “This bill is not in line with Fine Gael values and some of our long-term supporters are very distressed with the current state of affairs.
“I am totally in favour of women getting all necessary supports during pregnancies. Most people would not be impressed with a TD (deputy) who voted for something that they believed to be fundamentally wrong.”
Flanagan was anxious to clarify to the paper that his sole concern was the suicide issue.
He said: “My concern is with the real and significant cultural change in our hospitals, where we are putting in place procedures to facilitate abortions on grounds of a threat of suicide.
“Over the course of two sets of hearings conducted by the Joint Oireachtas (parliamentary) Committee on Health and Children, we were presented with compelling evidence that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal intent; in fact, it may even contribute to it.”
Flanagan also expressed concerns about late-term abortions and the damage done to the unborn child.
He said: “It gives me no pleasure to dissent from the whipped position of my party, but prior to the last general election, Fine Gael gave a commitment to the electorate that it was ‘opposed to the legalisation of abortion’.
“In deciding how to legislate on such a uniquely life-or-death issue as abortion, a legislator must have the freedom to follow his or her own conscience on the matter.
“I do not agree with those who say we should set aside our own beliefs when we deal with so grave an issue.
“As a legislator I am constitutionally free to oppose this bill and I am conscientiously obliged to do so.”
The report adds that several other Fine Gael deputies are considering their positions ahead of a vote on abortion.