By Daniel McConnell, Elaine Loughlin and Jack Power
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has confirmed that he will bring a memo to Cabinet next week to establish a Citizen’s Convention to examine the current controversial abortion laws.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Mr Kenny confirmed that he will deliver on the Programme for Government promise to set up the convention within six months.
“This morning I informed the Cabinet that I would bring a memo to Government next week initiating the citizens' assembly which I committed in the programme for Government to have set up within six months of the Government being formed. I intend to bring that memo to Cabinet next week,” he said.
Mr Kenny said the first item for reflection by the citizens' assembly will be the question of the eighth amendment.
However, under pressure from Anti-Austerity TD Ruth Coppinger over last week’s United Nations Rights Committee call on Ireland to lift the constitutional ban on abortion, Mr Kenny said it is pointless to rush into a constitutional referendum unless there is a realistic consensus for whatever change might be recommended here.
Ms Coppinger raised the human rights committee finding that Ireland's laws subjected Amanda Mellet to severe emotional and mental pain and suffering by denying her access to abortion services in Ireland.
“Will the Taoiseach apologise to Amanda Mellet and commend her on her bravery in going public and exposing her personal situation?,” Ms Coppinger said.
In response, Mr Kenny stopped short of giving such an apology.
“It is very prudent and proper that ordinary people from around the country based on geography, gender, age and so on would be involved in giving their reflections on the issue that has arisen in the Mellet case and many others,” he said.
Mr Kenny also faced questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on the controversial sale of Nama’s northern loan book, known as Project Eagle.
Mr Martin said the Irish taxpayer has been the biggest loser in the affair which is the subject of several separate investigations in other countries but not here in the Republic.
He criticised what he called the “nothing to see here” attitude of the Irish Government.
“The sale of Project Eagle by Nama, becomes more untenable by the day, the sense that there is nothing to investigate down here or that there is no necessity for the Government of the Irish Republic to be overly concerned about this particular deal. I do not believe that position is credible.
"The sales process, whether we like it or not or whether Nama likes it or not, was not robust or competitive and did not secure the best outcome,” Mr Martin said.
In response, the Taoiseach insisted that his information was that Nama had no questions to answer as to its role in the sale. “No allegations of wrongdoing against Nama,” he said.
“Nama continues to co-operate fully with the NCA and other relevant authorities in these investigations. The Department of Finance has previously made all relevant information on Project Eagle available publicly on its website,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil is to put forward their Parole Bill 2016 in the Dáil this week.
The party’s justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said the bill would “take away the power” from the Minister of Justice to ultimately decide on whether a prisoner gets parole or not.