Reilly: No evidence Catholic ethos prevented Savita's life from being saved

A candlelight vigil takes place in memory of Savita Halappanavar outside Cork Opera House. Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
A candlelight vigil takes place in memory of Savita Halappanavar outside Cork Opera House. Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Dáil and at other protests this evening to call on the Government to introduce legislation to allow for medical abortions.

The protests follow the tragic death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in Galway last month.

Savita, aged 31, was 17 weeks pregnant when she died in University Hospital Galway after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia.

Her husband Praveen, 34, claimed she had complained of being in agonising pain. He has said that doctors refused to carry out a medical termination because the foetus’s heartbeat was present.

Mr Halappanavar has claimed that following several requests by his late wife for a termination, they were told: “This is a Catholic country.”

Outside the Dáil, hundreds of people staged a sit-down demonstration on Kildare Street, calling on the Minister for Health James Reilly to introduce legislation for medical abortions.

Streets around Leinster House were shut down and traffic ground to a halt during rush-hour as around 2,000 demonstrators staged the spontaneous protest.

Kildare Street and Molesworth Street were flooded with protesters who listened to speeches from pro-choice campaigners, before sitting down for a minute’s silence.

Elsewhere, supporters in Cork held a candlelight vigil at the city’s Opera House in memory of Mrs Halappanavar.

Dr Reilly said he would await the findings of an independent inquiry into Savita's death, before commenting further on the case.

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, he said we "could not pre-judge" the situation, adding he had no evidence to suggest a Catholic ethos at the hospital prevented the pregnant woman's life from being saved by a medical termination.

He asked for time for an independent report on Savita's death "so that we get the truth of what happened".

He added: "People have raised questions about a Catholic ethos that is preventing people or inhibiting people from carrying out proper medical treatment as defined by the Medical Council. I have no evidence of that, but I am not going to preclude what a coroner's court will find, and I want to await that independent investigation."

Pro-life Independent Senator Ronan Mullen said he hoped protestors outside the Dáil would not use the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar as an argument for legislating for abortion.

"With greatest respect, I would be very sad if people tried to instrumentalise this tragedy to try and use it for another purpose, namely to legalise abortion, full-stop," he said.

"What we need to be sure of is that doctors know they have a duty to give all necessary medical treatment. It's there in the Medical Council guidelines (and) it's there in the law."

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