Donohoe: Supreme Court referral would clarify issues on abortion bill

The country’s newest junior minister believes President Michael D Higgins should refer the contentious abortion legislation to the Supreme Court.

Paschal Donohoe said the move would clarify any issues relating to the bill’s compliance with the constitution.

The Dublin Central TD was appointed Minister of State for European Affairs after Fine Gael colleague Lucinda Creighton voted against the Government and resigned from the post.

The contentious legislation, which for the first time will allow abortion in limited circumstances, was passed in the Dáil shortly after midnight. It will go to the Seanad next week – where it will be passed – and brought to President Higgins who will sign off on it and enshrine it into Irish law

Mr Donohoe said if the Supreme Court made a ruling on the legislation, like on the banking system, objectors’ concerns would be settled.

“One of the issues that has infused this debate is this question regarding the exact constitutionality of this bill and I do believe that it is in the interests of all concerned that that should be precisely answered,” said Mr Donohoe.

“I would welcome a speedy adjudication on that.”

The Government expects the law to be enacted before the Dáil breaks for summer on Thursday.

The landmark act, which enshrines a woman’s right to a termination if her life is at risk, including from suicide, was supported by the vast majority of the country’s politicians.

Five TDs, including Ms Creighton, were expelled from Fine Gael over their failure to vote for the bill. Peadar Toibin has also been suspended from Sinn Fein for six months for not supporting the bill.

Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan said the loss of members was regrettable but that they had to face the consequences of going against the rules.

“It was always going to be difficult because our party, being the largest government party, is reflective of public opinion and that public opinion is somewhat divided,” he said.

“It’s sad that people lose their association with our parliamentary party.

“Their views were sincere, their views were very stoutly held.

“I didn’t agree wit them but I recognise the fact there were differing views.”

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