‘English solution’ to abortion issue will remain, says Shatter

Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisted an “English solution to an Irish problem” will persist when it come to fatal foetal abnormalities after the X case legislation is passed.

“I’m on record as saying it is a terrible cruelty that, under our current legislation, a woman who’s pregnant and where there is a fatal foetal abnormality cannot have that pregnancy terminated, we know many women go to England.

“We have an English solution to an Irish problem, but I totally recognise that, within the current constitutional parameters, that issue cannot be addressed.”

Appealing for the Fine Gael “family” to stay united, Mr Shatter said: “I hope my colleagues will go with what is the overall view of the majority of the party and we’re all the one family — none of us want to see anyone leaving that family.

“Some would perceive that in fact it is more restrictive than the current arrangement which doesn’t ensure, for example, that two members of the medical profession need to make a diagnosis of a real and substantial risk in the case of physical risk.”

Mayo Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin refused to say if she would back the X case legislation, saying she had originally been in favour but now had concerns after speaking to health professionals. She is holding last-ditch talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to try and stay on board for the bill after expressing concerns about the suicidal intent grounds for a termination.

Mr Kenny again ruled out removing suicidal intent as grounds for a termination as the Cabinet made final amendments to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

He insisted it would not be constitutional to omit suicidal intent, as it formed part of the Supreme Court X case ruling.

“We’re very clear here, that the question of suicidal intent is an issue that was dealt with by the Supreme Court decision,” said Mr Kenny. “We, as a Government, and I, as Taoiseach, am not able to unpick that Supreme Court decision and therefore to attempt to do so would... render the bill unconstitutional.”

Health Minister James Reilly’s amendment tinkers with the wording, but does not alter the substance of the bill. It states that doctors must preserve the health of both the mother and unborn baby “as far as practicable” when considering a termination.

Though already in the bill, the wording has been clarified, as has an amendment stressing that intentionally destroying human life is an offence.

Only minor amendments to the bill are expected at the Cabinet today, and are believed to be technical ones, such as the naming of hospitals involved.

Meanwhile, two ministers insist the Government is focused on getting the abortion legislation right rather than on the personalities or politics which could see it lose a junior minister.

Marine Minister Simon Coveney and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that while internal party consultation will continue right up until tomorrow’s vote, there will be no special deals to accommodate party members such as junior minister Lucinda Creighton, who is poised to vote against the bill.

Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar were speaking in Union Hall, Co Cork, as they jointly launched a major marine safety package.

Mr Coveney said Fine Gael was elected to govern for the majority and “not one person”.

“This isn’t about the politics of this issue — it’s about trying to get legislation accurate and making sure it’s consistent with the Constitution,” he said.

Mr Varadkar declined to comment on suggestions that Ms Creighton may quit national politics if she loses the party whip.

“This is not about one person,” he said. “We are a Government for the people of Ireland. We have to do what we think is right for the people of Ireland and also for the unborn. It would be a really regrettable thing to lose any individual but we don’t govern for one person. We govern for the whole country.”


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