Junior minister John Halligan is to push to introduce assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill and suffering great pain.
Waterford Independent Alliance TD Mr Halligan said he has already drafted a bill on the controversial issue and hoped to bring it before the Dáil shortly.
However, a number of Fine Gael politicians have voiced opposition to the idea of making assisted suicide legal and the issue is not contained in the programme for government.
“The objective of the bill is that people who are terminally ill, who will die within six months, who are going through insufferable pain, that they should have a right to be assisted to die,” Mr Halligan told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
“It’s not criminally wrong to commit suicide in Ireland but it’s wrong legislatively or criminally if you help somebody, if you assist somebody with suicide. I think that’s terrible.
“I think we should show some compassion to people like that.”
He said other countries around the world allow for assisted suicide and “there is no evidence that it has been abused”.
He hoped there would be a free vote as “there are indications from members of Sinn Féin that I have spoken to, and indeed Fianna Fáil who might very well remove the whip and allow the bill to be voted on”.
Mr Halligan said he was optimistic that the bill would eventually be passed but said it is “probably a step too far in a relatively conservative country that it would be passed on first go. It probably won’t be but it will be interesting to see how many people vote for it.”
He said: “Lets have a look, look what happened a couple of weeks ago with fatal foetal abnormalities, 46 TDs voted for it, you wouldn’t have had that 10 or 20 years ago in the Dáil, so we are in changing times and people are beginning to think what people want and how people feel.”
However, a number of Fine Gael TDs yesterday said they were cautious about the bill. Michael D’Arcy said: “It’s something that I wouldn’t be rushing into.”
Noel Rock said the issue had not been raised or debated at meetings of the parliamentary party so he could not say how Fine Gael members would vote on such a bill.
However, from a personal point of view he said he would not be in favour of it.
Fine Gael colleague Bernard Durkan said: “It’s one of those issues that comes up from time to time and the question arises as to whether we should assist people to die.
“I would not agree with it, it would not be my way of doing things. I don’t think the case exists to justify helping to kill people.”
Mr Halligan said that if he were ever to be asked to assist another person he would “certainly give them all the details regarding Dignitas in Switzerland, how to get there”.
“Even as I say this, it is probably illegal to do that. What the heck, I believe in it,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved