Labour wounded as Anne Ferris votes against whip for terminations bill

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was accused of condemning women to inhuman torture as the Coalition voted down proposals to allow terminations for fatal foetal abnormality cases in Ireland.

Labour wounded as Anne Ferris votes against whip for terminations bill

Independent TD Clare Daly accused the Fine Gael-Labour government and their TDs of “political cowardice” after her Bill was rejected in the Dail yesterday.

However, Labour’s Dail numbers have now fallen to 34 after Wicklow TD Anne Ferris was kicked out of the parliamentary party for supporting the proposals, saying that it was an issue close to her heart.

“It [the proposal] only affects a small amount of women who have a terrible tragedy brought to them through no fault of their own,” said Ms Ferris.

“We are forcing them to go to England to have terminations of a much wanted, much loved baby. I think that is really wrong.”

She said she felt bad having voted against her own party and the Government.

While Ms Ferris now becomes an Independent TD, leaving Labour with no elected representatives in Wicklow, there was relief that more TDs and senators did not follow her last night.

At a tense party meeting behind closed doors, Labour ministers appealed to members to stay onside and outlined how the party would address the issue of abortion at the next general election.

Communications Minister Alex White outlined advice from the Attorney General, who advises the Government, and why Ms Daly’s bill was considered unconstitutional.

“The sense was given that if you support this, you would be firing blanks,” said a party source. “Even if the entire of Labour backed it, it would have no effect. The advice was explicit and unequivocal.”

Up to 23 Labour members spoke at the meeting, including Waterford TD Ciara Conway and Clare TD Michael McNamara, who both expressed concerns but later did not vote with the Bill.

Earlier, Ms Daly attacked the Taoiseach for refusing to agree to the legislation and for “frogmarching” TDs into the Dail to vote down the measure.

“My Bill enables [women], if they feel they cannot continue with that pregnancy, waiting for the baby to die, to terminate it here in Ireland surrounded by their families and friends,” said Ms Daly.

“Instead, the Taoiseach proposes inaction, condemning those people to a lonely journey, most likely to Liverpool, surrounded by holidaymakers and businesspeople while the bottom falls out of their world, and then to come home and have the ashes sent in a jiffy bag in a DHL van. It is cruel, inhumane, torture, and a violation of human rights and it is avoidable.”

Mr Kenny replied that neither he nor Ms Daly had the power to change the Constitution and only the people did. Such change was necessary for her legislation, he said, adding that this was based on advice from the Attorney General. He said it was traditional never to publish this advice. Furthermore, it was not lawful for legislators to vote for something that was contrary to the Constitution, he said.

Mr Kenny refused to refer the bill to the President, who has the right to ask the Supreme Court whether it is watertight.

The Coalition say there will only be two referendums this year, neither of which relate to abortion.

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