Fine Gael leadership contender Simon Coveney has said he is uncomfortable with some parts of the Citizens’ Assembly’s recommendations and will not vote in favour of what he called “abortion on demand”.
The Housing Minister risked dividing public opinion on the issue as he confirmed that he is in favour of holding referenda on abortion and presidential election reforms on the same day in 2018.
Speaking to reporters as Taoiseach Enda Kenny again refused to discuss his resignation date, Mr Coveney effectively made the abortion debate a key Fine Gael election issue.
Asked about his opinion on the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations, he said that while the status quo has to change, he is not in favour of “abortion on demand” and is uncomfortable with some of the proposals.
“I am uncomfortable with some of those recommendations,” he said. “I do think that there is change necessary in this area but I don’t support an approach that effectively facilitates abortion on demand in Ireland.
“That is not something I would vote for or support, but I also recognise that the status quo also needs to change.
“There are some very complex issues involving women in crisis pregnancy that the State needs to take a new and different approach on. But my views would not be consistent with some of the recommendations the Citizens’ Assembly made.”
The comments by Mr Coveney come after he said in December 2015 he did not believe politicians should be asked about the issue as it is “personal and difficult” for people.
However, his public remarks on the Citizens’ Assembly are now likely to form a part of the debate on who will replace Mr Kenny, given the control that a future taoiseach will have in wording an abortion referendum.
While a spokesperson for Leo Varadkar last night did not explain the Social Protection Minister’s views on the “contentious issue” and said “sincerely held different views are held within parties”, Mr Varadkar told Newstalk last June he is in favour of term limits as part of any abortion reform.
Mr Coveney also said he believes the abortion and right for Irish citizens abroad to vote in presidential elections referendums can be held together as part of a referendum day next year.
Meanwhile, strategists behind Mr Coveney’s leadership bid believe he has enough support in the three-part electoral college of Fine Gael to win the upcoming leadership contest.
His campaign team believe “negative spinning” from fellow contender Leo Varadkar has helped boost their support. They say electing Mr Coveney could extend the minority government deal with Fianna Fáil for another 18 months.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved