Willie O'Dea tells pro-life TDs to accept 'the will of the people'

Willie O'Dea tells pro-life TDs to accept 'the will of the people'

A pro-life Fianna Fáil TD has warned similarly minded colleagues intent on blocking the planned post-eighth amendment abortion laws to back down and accept "the will of the people" in the divisive debate.

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea hit out after a number of pro-life TDs and senators claimed they were being silenced by their party's hierarchy - and as it separately emerged Oireachtas authorities want the bill agreed by early November.

As revealed in today's Irish Examiner, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and senior party TD Timmy Dooley clashed with several rural backbenchers at Tuesday night's weekly parliamentary party meeting.

Sources at the behind-closed-doors meeting said while a number of party members said they wanted to table amendments to the planned abortion laws and potentially back amendments by other parties, they were told all such steps must be vetted.

While confirming the disagreement, Fianna Fáil officials said the decision to ensure any amendments are first put to health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly was only taken to guarantee the legislative debate is not overly delayed and not intended to silence anyone.

However, while repeating the view to reporters at Leinster House on Tuesday, Fianna Fáil social protection spokesperson Mr O'Dea also urged other pro-life TDs and senators to back down and accept "the will of the people".

"My views on the matter are well known, how I voted in the actual referendum is well known.

But talking to my colleagues it seems to be the majority view in my party that the people have spoken and as democrats we now need to implement the will of the people, the overwhelming view of the party.

"The rule is that the party spokesperson puts forward the amendments, so this is not silencing anybody or closing anybody down.

"What we want is anyone with amendments to discuss them and agree them with our health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly... The fact of the matter is the people have now decided and that is the will of the people," Mr O'Dea said.

While stressing "there is nothing sinister" in the situation, the decision to ensure any amendments are put to the party's health spokesperson Mr Donnelly before any decision on whether they should be tabled is understood to have frustrated a number of pro-life TDs and senators.

With the planned post-eighth amendment abortion laws due to be put to the Dáil this evening in the first stage of what are expected to be weeks of debate, only one amendment had been sent to Mr Donnelly although a number of TDs had informally raised questions with him.

It is understood Fianna Fáil pro-life TDs and senators are particularly concerned about GPs' right to conscientious objection under the proposed law and the plan to make them refer any woman seeking an abortion to another doctor in such circumstances.

Other issues are believed to include the exact definition of a fatal foetal abnormality under the law, and other matters.

Stephen Donnelly
Stephen Donnelly

The post-referendum abortion debate will begin on Thursday and is expected to last for a number of weeks, with the week after next week's budget expected to see the legislation dominate discussions.

The cross-party health committee yesterday "pencilled in" November 7 as the date for the committee stage legislative debate, meaning final amendments will have to be lodged by the start of November.

However, it is accepted that the November 7 date remains ambitious and that it may be extended depending on debate delays.

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