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Walsh: We're being asked to choose between Fine Gael values and Fine Gael

The TD said today that the fact he did not support a motion by Deputy Peter Mathews had led some to believe he did not support a free vote.

Brian Walsh TD
Brian Walsh TD

FINE GAEL TD Brian Walsh has said that he does support a free vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 – despite what some might think.

In an email seen by TheJournal.ie, Walsh addressed his colleagues, saying that a number of them had asked why he did not support the motion proposed by Deputy Peter Mathews at last night’s parliamentary party meeting.

He said this “has been misinterpreted as a lack of support for a free vote in relation to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013″.

Free vote

Walsh writes:

I would like to clarify that I did not support the motion and asked for its withdrawal as, had it been defeated, it would have constrained the Taoiseach in considering whether to grant a free vote, should he wish to review his current position at a later date.

He restated his desire for a free vote in relation to the Bill “or, if the whip is to be applied, I believe members who oppose the legislation should not be penalised with expulsion from the party”.

He said that there is precedent for this as in 1993, “Fine Gael decided to modify the application of penalties for breach of the whip in order to accommodate three TDs who indicated that they would vote against the party in support of a Bill proposed by the late Tony Gregory to ban hare coursing”.

The three deputies – one of whom was our colleague, Minister Alan Shatter – were allowed to remain in the parliamentary party after they voted against the whip on that Bill.
Regrettably, it appears that Fine Gael will accommodate a vote of conscience on legislation concerning the welfare of hares, but may not on legislation concerning the welfare of women and children.

Walsh goes on to quote from Shatter’s speech on the day in question, where he said that there are issues to which the whip should not apply. He said they are issues “which are never given priority by government but in respect of which deputies in each of the parties may hold strong, sincere and conflicting views”.

Walsh said that in the absence of a free vote on this issue, he believes “that many of us with concerns are being asked to choose between our careers and our consciences; and between our Fine Gael values and Fine Gael”.

Read: Fine Gael TD says he won’t support abortion bill, and neither will nine others>

Read: Reilly says he won’t be afraid to suspend abortion service as bill introduced in Dáil>

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