Sinn Féin could suspend pro-life TDs for six months if they refuse to vote in favour of unrestricted access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy should Sinn Féin support the policy.
Party sources confirmed the potential move which would effectively turn pro-life TDs into Independent representatives for a short period, after new Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said anyone who disobeys party policy will be disciplined.
On Sunday, Ms McDonald said she is personally in favour of both repealing the eighth amendment and allowing unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
While Sinn Féin supports repealing the Eighth Amendment, its policy does not currently allow for the 12 weeks rule. Party sources confirmed in recent weeks that an ard fhéis will be held in April to vote on extending the policy to 12 weeks.
Asked about the issue after an Irish Examiner TD poll found last week that the 12-week rule will not pass the Dáil without Sinn Féin support if TDs who oppose the rule will be disciplined, Ms McDonald said: “Yes, to be frank, yes.”
The comments are understood to have been directed at Peadar Tóibín and Carol Nolan, the only two of Sinn Féin’s 23 TDs who have publicly said they are opposed to repeal and the 12-week rule.
Neither TD responded to Irish Examiner queries on Sunday or yesterday, but Mr Toibin was previously suspended for six months from the party for his decision to oppose the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill.
Party sources have confirmed that no disciplinary procedure has been decided on the 12-week rule at this stage as Sinn Féin’s policy has yet to be changed.
However, depending on the severity of any opposition to official policy — ranging from speaking out against it, to failing to turn up to a Dáil vote, to voting against party policy in the Dáil — the party sources said pro-life TDs could be suspended for six months for their views.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved