How the vote affects the state of the parties

With the first Dáil vote behind them and the detail being discussed at marathon committee meetings, the long and contentious debate on the legislation for abortion in limited circumstances has entered its final week.

Politicians from all sides will hardly be sorry to see an end to what has been a difficult period — involving bitter debates and often offensive campaigning.

When the summer recess allows them time to cool off, some will survey the political wreckage left by the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Others will take some satisfaction that they have faced up to what their predecessors had avoided for 21 years, and legislated for the 1992 X Case ruling.

Here are the implications it will have for the individual parties and the growing number of independents:

Fine Gael

The extent of losses and scale of the revolt facing Enda Kenny will not be known until the final stage vote, expected early next week.

Health Minister James Reilly has been attempting to strike a conciliatory tone in the committee hearings, saying he will bring forward amendments that “make it clear” that the protection of the life of the unborn is maintained.

But TDs with strong concerns about the Bill remained frustrated that he was not taking any of their proposed amendments on board.

If they feel they are not being heard, up to three could join the four that have already moved to the opposition benches after voting against the legislation on Tuesday night.

All eyes will be on Lucinda Creighton, who has set herself up for a vote against the Bill with demands for far-reaching amendments which have already been ruled out.

Senior party sources believe the losses can be limited to around six. While such a revolt would be a clear blow to the Taoiseach’s authority, it is little more than what he might have expected when he was boxed into legislating for the X Case ruling.

What will pose a greater headache for him is the presence on the opposition benches of a sizeable group of rebel Fine Gael TDs who could — as has been the case in Labour — become the focus of dissent and criticism of the party’s policies in Government.

If he persists with his plan to block them from running for the party in the next election some may have no choice — as independents — but to become vocal opponents of unpopular budget cuts.

Fianna Fáil

Micheál Martin’s leadership was no doubt undermined when 13 of his party’s 19 TDs took a different stance to him and went against his original wishes to support the Bill.

But this is something he had anticipated when he decided to grant his party a free vote to prevent a division over the issue and the potential loss of some of his already-small parliamentary party.

He will put a positive spin that he has embraced a “new way of doing politics” by allowing TDs vote with their conscience — something that might find favour with the wider public.

The vote will highlight the fact Fianna Fáil is still the conservative, male-dominated party of old, and not the progressive, modern pro-women party that Mr Martin wants it to be. And that is something that might stick in the minds of voters.

But of much greater concern to the leader is the Anglo tapes and the uncomfortable questions that have re-emerged about the party’s past.

Labour

It could be argued that Labour should have pushed for a referendum which would allow a more radical change of abortion laws.

After all, its leader, deputy leader and two ministers of state in the Department of Health have said they would have preferred if the law was extended to include cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

But the party will be satisfied that, unlike Fine Gael, it has fulfilled its pre-election promise on the issue, which was to legislate for the 1992 X case ruling.

While many expect there will be no major electoral consequence as a result of the legislation, some Labour TDs believe it will help them win back part of their core vote, which has been drifting away over the past year.

And the timing of the legislation — half way through the Government’s term — has been good for the junior coalition party.

If it had happened earlier when the heavy budget adjustments were underway, the concessions given to them on the abortion Bill could have been “traded off” in other negotiations.

But they are also eager that same-sex marriage is not sacrificed as a result of the passing of the Bill.

Eamon Gilmore has described marriage equality as a “civil rights” issue and the constitutional convention has recommended it. But the Taoiseach is yet to give his views and — after being accused of abandoning his party’s principles in recent weeks — he’ll be less than enthusiastic about pursuing contentious social issues any time soon.

Sinn Féin

Party leader Gerry Adams was told at the Árd Fheis in April that the grassroots was more pro-life than he thought.

But a motion calling for a free vote was defeated and the whip was imposed to vote in favour of the legislation.

Meath West TD Peadar Toibín said his support for abortion legislation was an “impossible task” and opted to vote No.

He became the first person in the modern history of the party to defy the whip so the nature of disciplinary action against him remains to be seen, although he is almost certain to be left out in the cold for a while.

After the vote he said he was “fully committed” to the party. “If I get an opportunity to put my energy back in, I would gladly take it.”

Independents

Apart from their numbers growing as a result of the Bill, the independent group can point to some individuals in its ranks as having played a significant role in the abortion debate.

Clare Daly can take credit for putting the issue firmly on the political agenda when she tabled a private member’s bill to legislate for the X Case in April 2012, and again in November.

John Halligan has consistently highlighted the limited nature of the legislation in measured Dáil contributions on the issue.

Both he and Richard Boyd Barrett were to the fore in highlighting the need to legislate on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormalities — and have influenced a growing belief across parties that this issue needs to be dealt with at some stage.

Munster TDs: How they voted

CORK EAST

Sean Sherlock (Lab): Yes.

David Stanton (FG): Yes — but had to think “long and hard” about it.

Tom Barry (FG): Yes after writing to papal nuncio to seek assurances he wouldn’t be excommunicated.

Sandra McLellan (SF): Yes, because she believes women should never face a threat to their lives simply because they are carrying a child.

CORK NORTH CENTRAL

Jonathan O’Brien (SF): Yes.

Kathleen Lynch (Lab): Yes — but would prefer if legislation went further.

Billy Kelleher (FF): Yes. But the Fianna Fáil spokesman on health failed to convince most of his party to do the same.

Dara Murphy (FG): Yes after being assured that a “high level” of medical evidence is required.

CORK NORTH WEST

Michael Creed (FG): Yes, after a “difficult” decision, but support for final stage not guaranteed.

Michael Moynihan (FF): Yes.

Aine Collins (FG): Yes. Believes rape, incest, abnormalities are “for another day”.

CORK SOUTH CENTRAL

Micheál Martin (FF): Yes, but suffered a minor blow to his leadership after two thirds of his party voted the other way.

Ciaran Lynch (Lab): Yes.

Simon Coveney (FG): Yes.

Jerry Buttimer (FG): Yes.

Michael McGrath (FF): No, after successfully convincing his party leader to allow a free vote.

CORK SOUTH-WEST

Jim Daly (FG): Yes, but with reservations.

Noel Harrington (FG): Yes.

Michael McCarthy (Lab): Yes.

KERRY NORTH

Jimmy Deenihan (FG): Yes.

Martin Ferris (SF): Yes.

Arthur Spring (Lab): Yes, despite taking a more cautious stance on the Bill than his Labour colleagues.

KERRY SOUTH

Brenda Griffin (FG): Yes.

Tom Fleming (Ind): Abstained from vote. Did not take a position on the issue but called for a referendum, saying the Dáil should not have a “monopoly” on such decisions.

Michael Healy Rae (Ind): No. Believes it does not equally protect right to life of mother and child.

LIMERICK CITY

Michael Noonan (FG): Yes.

Kieran O’Donnell (FG): Yes. But has a number of amendments he wants considered.

Willie O’Dea (FF) No. Declared in May he would vote with the bill but performed a last-minute u-turn which a colleague described as a “Pauline conversion on the road to Southill”.

Jan O’Sullivan (Lab): Yes.

LIMERICK

Dan Neville (FG): Yes.

Patrick O’Donovan (FG): Yes.

Niall Collins (FF): Yes.

WATERFORD

John Deasy (FG): Yes, despite expressing strong reservations about the legislation at a parliamentary party meeting with the minister.

Paudie Coffey (FG): Yes, despite some concerns about the legislation.

Ciara Conway (Lab): Yes. From the early days, was one of the strongest advocates on the Government benches for the need to legislate.

John Halligan (Ind): Yes. But believes it is “warped justice” that women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or carrying a fatal foetal abnormality, will still have to travel abroad for terminations.

CLARE

Pat Breen (FG): Yes.

Michael McNamara (Lab): Yes.

Joe Carey (FG): Yes.

Timmy Dooley (FF): Yes.

TIPPERARY NORTH

Michael Lowry (Ind): No.

Noel Coonan (FG): Yes.

Alan Kelly (Lab): Yes.

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