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Dublin: 0°C Friday 22 January 2021

Ministers' row means abortion law may miss summer deadline

Enda Kenny says he would like the laws enacted before the Dáil’s summer break, but he cannot guarantee it.

James Reilly could not secure cabinet agreement yesterday for the draft terms of Ireland's proposed new abortion laws.
James Reilly could not secure cabinet agreement yesterday for the draft terms of Ireland's proposed new abortion laws.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

LAWS ALLOWING ABORTION to be carried out under certain circumstances in Ireland may not be in place by the summer break, after ministers failed to agree to the draft structure of the legislation yesterday.

Enda Kenny said that the Minister for Health, James Reilly, had hoped to have the ‘heads’ of the draft Maternal (Protection of Life) Bill approved by the Cabinet yesterday – but said they had not agreed to the bill, signalling continuing dispute between Fine Gael and Labour ministers.

The matter is to be returned to next week’s cabinet meeting.

It is reported this morning that Fine Gael and Labour have not yet agreed on the composition of the panel of medical professionals who would have to sign off on any pregnancy being terminated.

Though James Reilly has denied that pregnant women will face inquiry by six doctors, the Irish Times reports that Fine Gael ministers are holding out for two separate panels of three doctors to be consulted first – with a 12-member appeals panel dealing with any disputes.

Kenny said today he would not comment on the “wild speculation” about the composition of the appeals panel.

“This is a matter about saving the life of the mother, and the unborn, our constitution and our law,” Kenny told the Dáil. “It’s important to get it right.”

He added:

This is an issue that as much consensus as possible should be able to be had, because it is an important matter.

“I would like to think that we would have the Maternal (Protection of Life) Bill enacted before the House rises,” he continued, “but I can’t honestly be too prescriptive about that because people may want to have their say.”

The Irish Government had previously told the Council of Europe that it would have the legislation enacted by the summer break, addressing the shortcomings found in the A, B and C ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

It had also said that the draft ‘Heads of Bill’ would have been published by the end of April – a deadline which will almost certainly now be missed, as the next cabinet meeting is not due until April 30.

Kenny suggested that the summer recess could be deferred by a week to ensure that the abortion laws, and other legislation, was enacted before TDs went on their traditional summer recess for August.

Read: Ireland tells Europe that ‘X case’ law will be enacted by July

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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