Labour throws support behind Dying with Dignity Bill

Labour throws support behind Dying with Dignity Bill

Labour leader Alan Kelly said the issue can 'no longer be kicked down the road'. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Phtocallireland

The Labour Party has thrown its support behind the pending ‘Dying with Dignity’ bill, due to be debated in the Dáil next week.

The private members’ bill, being tabled by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny and originally designed by former minister John Halligan, seeks to allow terminally ill people access services to help them die.

The controversial bill, which is facing stiff opposition from the Government, is being strongly backed by cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan.

Alan Kelly, the Labour leader, speaking to the Irish Examiner, confirmed his party’s intention to support the bill.

He said this is an issue which can “no longer be kicked down the road” and needs to be dealt with quickly.

“I believe we as a political class need to deal with this quicker than many people realise. Gino’s bill is good but it needs tailoring and I am sure he is open to that,” he said.

Mr Kelly said the idea of kicking the issue into the Constitutional Convention is not an acceptable option.

“It is down to us in the Dáil to deal with it as legislators. Yes this will take a considerable amount of research and time but it is the next big issue we need to address,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said she and her party are engaging with Mr Kenny about possibly supporting it.

The controversial bill, which is facing stiff opposition from the Government, is being strongly backed by cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan.
The controversial bill, which is facing stiff opposition from the Government, is being strongly backed by cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan.

“We are in discussions on that. I am very conscious that Vicky Phelan has been so public in her support of it. 

It's a very profound question for public policy. And we will study it and we will respond. 

"I know that Gino has been raising this issue many times, and it's a very sensitive issue and we will treat this with the sensitivity that it deserves,” she said.

Ms McDonald said that we need to address the issue of dying with dignity in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We've learned with regards to things in the course of this pandemic. 

"We talk a lot about learning how to live with Covid for example, we also need to learn how to die with Covid and how to be bereaved in circumstances that are very, very difficult. 

"And similarly, prior to any public health emergency the issue of dignity and death has been a very sensitive subject so I want us to get it right, so I'm thoughtful on the issue rather than being cautious,” she said.

There is doubt whether such a rigid approach will fly with all three parties in government. 

Senior sources in the Green Party have said several of their TDs are sympathetic to the merits of the bill.

In a 2013 Supreme Court noted there was nothing to stop the Oireachtas from legislating to allow for assisted suicide once it was satisfied that appropriate safeguards could be put in place.

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