FIANNA FÁIL TDs and Senators will today discuss the party’s stance on the Government’s proposed abortion bill, after an intense five-hour meeting of Fine Gael representatives last night.
The weekly meeting of the FG parliamentary party was the longest in memory – easily outlasting those of mid-2010 when Enda Kenny survived a leadership heave – with many members openly challenging the inclusion of a clause on suicide.
Though the tone of the meeting is thought to have been less fiery than previous encounters, it was nonetheless fraught – with some TDs insisting they could not vote in favour of clauses recognising the risk of suicide as grounds to end an otherwise viable pregnancy.
Fianna Fáil’s stance on abortion was copperfastened at its Árd Fheis last weekend, when members backed a series of motions on the issue – including an affirmation that the party is fundamentally ‘pro-life’ and opposed plans to legislate for the risk of suicide.
However, it has been suggested that the position of TDs themselves may not be so clear cut – and with the legislation in no danger of falling, due to the massive ranks of Fine Gael and Labour TDs, members could be offered a free vote.
This could prompt some internal divisions, however, given how recently the party affirmed a pro-life stance – and because the government’s majority in the Seanad is much smaller, and may require the support of opposition parties to be carried if FG senators oppose it in significant numbers.
It would present a political opportunity to ensure internal harmony within Fianna Fáil, however – particularly as its chief rival party faces the defection of a dozen or more members.