A final Dáil vote on legislation allowing abortion in certain circumstances is expected to take place later today after TDs failed to conclude all stages despite a marathon all-night sitting.
Junior Minister, Lucinda Creighton, supported the coalition in the first vote relating to the clause allowing suicide as grounds for abortion, proposed by Sinn Fein TD, Peadar Toibin.
The first amendment she has proposed is listed as number 22. But she will be closely watched for the final vote after strongly indicating she would not support what she described as "flawed" legislation.
In a speech early this morning the Health Minister, James Reilly, hit back at her arguments for opposing the legislation: "We have seen very clearly that not alone are they not compelling, they are deeply flawed," he said. He rejected the claim by Ms Creighton that the Government had "cowered behind the Supreme Court" in its decision to allow terminations on the grounds of suicide.
Mr Reilly said the Supreme Court ruling on the X Case more than 21 years ago cannot be ignored: "It is the basic law of the land," he said.
There was an attempt to suggest that the Supreme Court interpretation of Article 40.3.3 "can be qualified or discounted or somehow ignored" the Minister said "that simply is just not the case," he added.
"When the statute book is silent on matters of life and death great mischief can occur,” the Minister added. The Junior Health Minister, Labour's Kathleen Lynch, said the Government should "start to look seriously" at introducing abortion in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and where the health of the mother, and not just her life, is at risk.
She told the Dáil: "When you're standing up there talking, forget your legal concepts. Forget the abstract. Just think very carefully about who you are talking about. Because it's not some distant ethereal being, it's mothers, sister, aunts, uncles, daughters."
The final vote on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill was initially scheduled by 10pm last night. This was initially pushed back to midnight and then to 5am to facilitate debate on 165 proposed amendments.
The final vote is now expected to take place after the Dáil resumes this evening. Ms Creighton was poised to lose the Fine Gael party whip and her junior ministry over her opposition to the Government on sections of the Bill.
The Dublin South-East TD is expected to join four other Fine Gael TDs on the opposition benches who voted against the Bill in its earlier stages. They include Billy Timmins, Peter Mathews, Terence Flanagan and Brian Walsh.
But her hopes of being joined by other colleagues with deep reservations about the legislation were dashed when John Paul Phelan, Michelle Mulherin and John O'Mahony confirmed they would back the Government's position. Deputy Phelan told the Dáil he would vote for the legislation in this morning's vote because it was "a realistic solution" despite having misgivings.
The Carlow-Kilkenny TD said he consulted widely with his circle of friends and constituents. The close colleague of junior minister, Lucinda Creighton, said he discussed his decision last night with a "dear friend" who was "particularly upset when I indicated by views."
Ms Mulherin who had previously expressed strong reservations about the clause allowing abortion if a woman is suicidal, confirmed her reluctant support to the Dáil last night: “I am now faced with either supporting the Bill or being booted out of the party - my party. And I am not going to allow myself to be booted out so I’m supporting this legislation," she said.
The constituency colleague of Enda Kenny said she had met the Taoiseach for an hour and a half on Tuesday night. She said she was “very disappointed that there was very little accommodation of the legitimate concerns expressed by myself and many others.”
Her constituency colleague, John O’Mahony, said he was satisfied that “the safeguards are adequate” to prevent abuse of the legislation. “I have decided to support the passage of the remaining stages of this Bill through the Dáil,” he said in a statement.
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