The Government is “sleepwalking” its way into another crisis over abortion, ministers admitted last night.
The Coalition has failed to agree a response to Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger’s bill, which is seeking to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
The Independent Alliance ministers — Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Sean Canney — are to meet colleague Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran today to discuss their position on the bill along with budget matters, but sources have said a free vote would be sought.
Despite almost collapsing amid a row over how to deal with a similar bill from Independent TD Mick Wallace, tensions are mounting within Government over the failure to agree a decision. The alliance’s newly installed programme manager, Tony Williams, is charged with handling the matter.
Ms Coppinger’s bill looks set to be debated the week after the budget, and sources now fear an agreed position will not be reached until the eve of the debate commencing, which they say would be “very destabilising”.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, one minister said Fine Gael expectations that the Independents would roll over are “wide of the mark”.
“We will meet to decide but like last time, it would be very difficult for some of us to oppose the bill. Without pre-determining our meeting, I would think it likely we would seek a free vote.”
Meanwhile, six TDs are facing potential Leinster House disciplinary action after breaking strict political emblem rules by wearing pro-choice “Repeal” T-shirts in the Dáil. Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl confirmed the situation after the AAA-PBP TDs wore the outfits during Leaders’ Questions.
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