Leo Varadkar says Independents made an error backing abortion bill

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has accused Independent cabinet colleagues of destabilising the Government by wrongly believing they would be seen as “heroes” for backing Mick Wallace’s abortion bill.

Leo Varadkar says Independents made an error backing abortion bill

Mr Varadkar, a potential successor to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, made the claim as pressure continues to mount on the Coalition to bring its internal crisis under control.

Speaking just hours after Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said “some of the Independents don’t get” what it means to be in power, Mr Varadkar told RTE’s The Week in Politics the abortion bill vote had risked causing a second general election.

“I think it was an error on behalf of those Independents,” he said. “Maybe they thought they would be seen as heroes [for backing the ultimately unsuccessful opposition bill], but it destabilised the Government and has damaged the Independent brand as well.

“I would hope they [the Independent Alliance] will reflect on this week and that it will not happen again.”

Mr Varadkar said Mr Kenny was unable to force Independents to back down on their support for the bill, as doing so could have meant “the Government would of course fall”.

Speaking earlier in the day on RTÉ Radio, Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes similarly said “if Enda Kenny took them on there would have been another election”, adding pointedly: “It seems to me some of the Independents don’t get it [being in Government].”

A major rift in the cabinet became apparent last week when Independent Alliance members led by Transport Minister Shane Ross, Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath, and Minister for Training and Skills John Halligan voted in favour of an opposition bill calling for abortion to be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The decision came despite the Attorney General’s insistence the bill was unconstitutional.

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