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Prime Minister Enda Kenny Photo by: Google Images

Irish leader fires four members of his party after they voted against abortion legislation

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Prime Minister Enda Kenny Photo by: Google Images

The Irish government has won the vote approving the second stage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill by 138 votes to 24.

They lost four votes from Fine Gael TDs who have now been removed from the party and told to vacate their offices.

Fine Gael TDs Terence Flanagan, Peter Matthews, Billy Timmins and Brian Walsh voted against the Bill, as did Sinn Fein’s Peadar Toibin.

“The Government position has been outlined very clearly. The consequences of voting against the Government are clear,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

The bill will allow for abortion in Ireland in limited and carefully controlled circumstances, including a risk to the life of the mother due to suicide. The government says it is merely legislating for a Supreme Court decision that was made on the issue, the Irish Times reports.

Irish Minister of State Lucinda Creighton, who had earlier made her opposition to the bill public, nonetheless voted for the second stage of the Bill.

Creighton told the press she hoped there would be substantive amendments to the legislation at the committee stage, which began yesterday evening.

Irish prime minister Enda Kenny faced the defection of several of his own party members with at least nine of the party’s members expressing reservations about the Bill. The effort to win over the doubters has been seen as a test of Kenny’s authority as party leader.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told the press that Fine Gael members who voted against the Bill would lose the party whip.

The vote occurred at 5PM on Tuesday after Kenny’s return from Strasbourg, where he addressed the European Parliament on Ireland’s EU presidency.

Speaking before the vote Kenny gave a stern defense of the bill. 'To those who fear that this Bill is the first step towards a liberal abortion regime in Ireland, I say clearly that this extremely restrictive Bill is the only proposal that will be brought forward by this Government on this issue,' he said.

The Bill provides a legal framework for abortion in cases where there is a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, including by suicide.

It is expected that Creighton, a member of the hardline Catholic Iona Group, will vote against the Bill at the committee stage later this week. Her vote is expected to cost her both her membership of the Fine Gael parliamentary party and her Ministerial office.

Meanwhile white crosses splattered with blood red paint have been tied up next to the home of an Irish politician after she publicly supported the proposed new abortion legislation.

The crosses were erected near the home of Heather Humphreys in County Monaghan.

Humphreys told the BBC that while she understood protests at her office, she viewed crosses nailed to poles outside her family home as 'quite invasive.'

The white crosses reportedly appeared some time last week. They were nailed to telegraph poles close to her property at Aghabog, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Humphreys told her local newspaper, the Northern Standard: "This is a very sensitive issue and there are very sincere and strongly held views. I respect these views and I understand that there are genuine concerns. But the reality is that we simply cannot ignore this issue any longer, there have been two referendums on the matter and on both occasions the Irish people decided not to remove suicide as grounds for a termination.'

Fine Gael's director of media and research Tom Fabozzi told the press there had been anti-abortion demonstrations outside the offices of almost all the party's parliamentary representatives, but the placing of crosses at the Humphreys' house was the first protest he had heard of near any minister's family home.

One email sent to all Fine Gael ministers in April made a death threat against every representative in the party.

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