Complaint over abortion law delays

A significant complaint about the Government’s failure to act on a ruling from the European Court of Justice to regularise abortion legislation has been lodged by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The body is particularly critical of statements made by Lucinda Creighton, the European affairs minister, who has been quoted as saying the State was not bound by the court’s decisions.

Almost two years ago the court, which is based in Strasbourg, ruled that a woman had been denied her rights when, despite her life being endangered by her pregnancy, she was unable to procure an abortion in Ireland.

The Government agreed it would do something to implement legislation as demanded by the Supreme Court more than 20 years ago to implant in the Constitution the right to an abortion for women in such instances.

An expert group was established and was supposed to report last July. It got a three-month extension to the end of September, but as of last week had still not submitted its findings.

The Council for Civil Liberties made an eight-page submission to the committee of European ministers responsible for ensuring the court’s rulings were implemented.

They warned that “religious and political opposition, including from within the Government’s junior ranks has been mounting”.

The council’s director, Mark Kelly, said: “We wish the committee of ministers to be fully aware of the background of religious conservatism and political intransigence into which the report of the expert group on the implementation of this important judgment will be released.

“As Ireland approaches its presidency of the European Union, it is unconscionable for the minister of state with special responsibility for European affairs to imply that the implementation of a judgment of Europe’s supreme court is anything less than an urgent priority for the Government.

“Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights against Ireland are legally binding and must be implemented in a speedy and effective way. The ICCL is calling upon the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to unequivocally remind the Government of this fact.”

Their complaint said that almost two years after the ruling, a woman in Ireland is still treated the same as the person in the A, B, and C case, in clear violation of her rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It quotes newspaper reports of the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, saying another referendum on abortion was possibly the only solution. Politicians would be lobbied by bishops and others to ensure no abortion was allowed here.

The group also included reports that about 15 TDs said they would oppose legislation that would pave the way for abortion while Health Minister James Re-illy, who will receive the report, was claimed to be committing to consulting his Fine Gael colleagues on the findings before he brought them to Cabinet.

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