Fianna Fáil TDs urge party whip on abortion

A number of Fianna Fáil frontbench TDs have backed calls for the party to enforce a whip on the party in support of the pending abortion legislation.

They have also backed a call from leader Micheál Martin to unite in purpose as the country heads towards a general election if the party wants to have a chance of getting into Government.

The TDs who backed the proposal, put to the electorate by way of a referendum last week, say their colleagues who opposed it have no option but to support and facilitate the will of the people.

Limerick TD Niall Collins, who said the party had a bad few weeks, indicated his support for a whip to be applied.

Mr Collins said he was “really concerned” any TD or senator would consider voting against any aspect of the legislation to regulate the termination of pregnancy at any stage.

Offaly TD Barry Cowen told a meeting of the parliamentary meeting Mr Martin should apply the whip.

“A politician or a political party cannot become a prisoner of your core base. You have to show leadership to your core base.

“Unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues did not show leadership within their own constituencies, or within the units of the Fianna Fáil organisation with which they work closest to.”

“Sadly, a lot of them have been saying since the Dáil returned this week that they got it wrong and they regret that they got it wrong. The party has to pull together in terms of how we now, as a party, face into the passage of the forthcoming legislation,” Mr Collins said.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher said he expects all of his party colleagues to put aside their personal views, given the size of the mandate of the people to support the legislation.

“I would call on my colleagues to listen to the will of the people and support its passage in the Dail,” he said.

Mr Martin told the parliamentary party on Tuesday night he expected TDs and senators to support the legislation when it comes to the House.

Even TDs, like John McGuinness, who voted no, told the Irish Examiner that colleagues must listen to the will of the electorate.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, who did not support repeal, confirmed he will unequivocally support the legislation.

Meanwhile Health Minister Simon Harris met with opposition spokespeople yesterday to brief them on implementing the result of the referendum.

Calling on cross-party agreement to pass the second stage of the new legislation by the summer recess, he said he is hopeful the Dáil could pass report stage by the end of September.

Mr Harris is to meet opposition members again in two weeks’ time and will meet other stakeholders today and tomorrow.

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