Lucinda alone as Enda reels in rebels

Though hardly at his most eloquent, Enda Kenny still spoke for most TDs when he declared: “I am going to get rid of it this evening.”

Lucinda alone as Enda reels in rebels

“It” was, of course, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, or, as many weary TDs now view it: “The Life During Wartime Bill.”

A minister caught scurrying the long way around the side of Leinster House so he could slip in the back and thus avoid the anti-abortion protestors kneeling for the rosary at the front gates bemoaned: “I have had enough of them at home, I don’t need to run into them here as well.”

But the most remarkable thing about the anti-abortion and pro-choice protests was their relatively modest scale, though the reduced numbers still wove a day long human tapestry of noise and colour across the face of the Oireachtas.

The throng grew as pro-choicers chanted “Go back to Craggy Island” at their opponents, and one anti-abortion activist retaliated with a targeted sprinkling of holy water to “cleanse” the X case crowd.

Inside, Mr Kenny was busy turning on the charm and the arm twisting in equal measure as he reeled-in potential rebels one by one — leaving just one, the big one, Lucinda Creighton, dangling.

The South Dublin deputy expended what political capital she had left with Fine Gael backbenchers last week when she attacked their mentality of “group think” — sparking outrage amongst colleagues who insisted the only group they were thinking about was Irishwomen.

This time, Ms Creighton did not go quite as far during her intervention, merely branding those backing the bill as “cowering behind the Supreme Court”.

Rounding on Health Minister James Reilly over the suicidal intent clause, she claimed was “built on sand”, she made a pointed reference to “you and your Government” which was taken as signalling her slow-motion exit.

Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin, who provoked international ridicule last year when she told TDs that “fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies”, produced another jaw-dropping Dáil contribution when she made it clear she had effectively chosen party over principle and admitted being strong-armed into backing a bill she still had grave reservations about.

“I am now faced with either supporting the bill or being booted out of the party, my party, and I am not going to allow myself to be booted out, so I am supporting this legislation.”

As the debate drifted liberal TDs lamented the restrictive nature of the reform and vowed to vote against in impotent protest, but after 21 years the Dáil was finally adhering to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Failure to legislate for the X case is now history, but the Why case still remains live, as in why won’t the Dáil act for the 4,500 Irishwomen forced abroad for a termination each year due to the fact that is the only choice the Constitution affords them?

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