A Fine Gael Minister has urged Irish PM Enda Kenny not to take any action against party colleagues who vote against the proposed abortion legislation – and has said she has no problems with a referendum on the issue.
Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has told the Irish Times that said she would be ‘very disappointed’ if colleagues were excluded from the party for refusing to support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
She said: “Under the legislation, there are mechanisms for the mother to vindicate her right to life, which is absolutely correct and appropriate. But there is no mechanism for the unborn child.
“The challenge for the legislature is to balance the constitutional protection for both.
“A logical solution would be for the attorney general “to have that responsibility or role, or indeed some other officer of the courts.
“This would give some balance to the legislation and make sure that the right of the unborn child as enshrined in the Constitution can actually be vindicated. It would make the legislation more robust.”
Minister Creighton added: “Such a measure would not necessarily mean that the attorney general would come into contact with the mother but could perhaps review the file.
“There are a variety of legal avenues but there has to be some consideration given to it as we go through the committee stage of the legislation.”
Admitting to deep reservations about the suicide clause in the proposed legislation, Creighton confirmed she is still dubious about elements of the proposed legislation.
She said: “My views haven’t changed. I think the suicide clause is quite dubious.
“I would have no difficulty with a second referendum on abortion. Consulting the people is never a problem. But it’s not the intention of the Government at the moment. We’ll see whether this gains momentum or not.”
Creighton also said she did not resent the way Prime Minister Kenny has handled the issue.
She said: “The Taoiseach (PM) has a job to do, and it’s his intention to introduce the legislation.”
But she was critical of plans to use the party whip for the vote and mandate Fine Gael members to vote in favour.
She added: “It’s not simply a matter that has sprung up on this issue. I don’t believe we should have a three line whip on every vote. I think it’s contrary to the principles of parliamentary democracy.
“I always felt that our whip system is outmoded and used to excess. I would like to see a different approach. It would be good for our politics if members were able to express different opinions within reason, particularly on issues of conscience . . . People have very, very personal beliefs.
“I don’t think they are disloyal to Fine Gael. I don’t think they are disloyal to the Government for expressing those views. I would be very disappointed to see people effectively being put out of the Fine Gael parliamentary party because of their views.”