Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and deputy leader Joan Burton, as well as Justice Minister Alan Shatter, have said they would prefer if legislation went further than what is being considered by the Oireachtas. But as TDs prepare for their first vote on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill this evening, Enda Kenny promised it would not be “the first step towards a liberal abortion regime”.
He said: “I say clearly that this extremely restrictive bill is the only proposal that will be brought forward by this Government on this issue.”
The Fine Gael leadership was last night privately confident the loss of TDs over the issue could be limited to well below 10. Four TDs have said they will vote against the legislation at today’s second stage vote.
Others, including European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, are holding fire until the final stage vote later this month, enabling them to table amendments at committee and report stages.
It was widely accepted last night that Ms Creighton will sacrifice her ministerial career and vote against the bill at that stage.
Yesterday, Cardinal Seán Brady called on any public representative “who believes their constitutional right is being denied to seek immediate clarification on this issue from the courts”.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland said he was also calling on the Government to publish its advice from the Attorney General on the potential constitutional and legal conflicts that have been raised by the bill.
During 10 hours of Dáil debate yesterday, Ms Burton said it was her “personal belief” that women who wish to terminate pregnancies in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities “should be enabled to do so here in Ireland”.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that while constitutionally necessary, the bill is not perfect and will “fall short in the face of hard cases”.
The Labour leader said: “It cannot offer a woman, facing the trauma of having to carry, for nine months, a baby that will never survive outside the womb, the compassion that she deserves. Nor can it offer compassion to a woman or a girl who is the victim of rape or incest, and pregnant against her will.”
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the law was by no means liberal and it would have been “almost impossible to draft a more restrictive and careful law”.
“What will continue and will remain is a British solution to what is an Irish problem,” he said.