Committee split over calls for early vote on abortion

The cross-party Oireachtas committee examining the abortion laws is split over calls for it to issue an early formal show of support this week for repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Committee split over calls for early vote on abortion

The move — which would see the committee vote on repealing or retaining the amendment at the end of each of its three modules, the first of which ends on Wednesday — is outlined in motions from pro-choice members, due to be discussed at a private meeting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil delegates strongly backed the retention of the Eighth Amendment at a divisive Ard Fheis debate.

A number of Eighth Amendment committee members confirmed the calls for a vote have been lodged.

They told the Irish Examiner that some committee members, including Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger and Independent senator Lynn Ruane, have sent motions to committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone, seeking an early vote on the issue.

Specifically, the motions state that as the committee is split into three modules, at the end of each module the members should vote on whether to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment, with the first vote potentially taking place this Wednesday.

Ms Noone has accepted the motions and will allow them to be discussed in private — alongside advice from the committee’s legal advisers on the implications of retaining, changing, or repealing the Eighth Amendment — before Wednesday’s public meeting.

However, while the move is expected to be supported by a number of other pro-choice committee members, pro-life and middle ground members have privately said they do not support the early vote as it will tie the committee into a position before all evidence has been heard.

Ms Noone said last night: “Any decision will be taken by the committee as a whole, after and in conjunction with legal advice.”

The issue has underlined the difficulty in balancing the views of members of the Eighth Amendment committee, and comes just days after pro-life Independent senator Ronan Mullen and Independent TD Mattie McGrath threatened to quit the group due to disputed claims of bias. At the time of going to press it remained unclear if Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath would return for tomorrow’s private meeting or boycott it completely. However, as reported by the Irish Examiner on Friday, no committee member can formally leave the group without the approval and permission of the separate cross-party select committee.

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