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Government seeks to delay Dying with Dignity Bill and send issue to special Oireachtas committee

The proposed legislation would allow medical professionals assist terminally ill persons end their own life.

Gino Kenny TD is seeking to legislate for assisted dying.
Gino Kenny TD is seeking to legislate for assisted dying.

Updated Sep 29th 2020, 6:37 PM

THE GOVERNMENT IS to table an amendment to the Dying with Dignity Bill that would mean a special Oireachtas committee would examined the issue of assisted dying. 

The decision made today by Cabinet could delay the passage of Bill by up to a year, should the amendment be passed in a Dáil vote.

The Dying with Dignity Bill 2020 seeks to legislate for allowing medical professionals assist terminally ill persons end their own life should that be their stated intention. 

The Bill is being introduced by deputies Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith and will go before the Dáil this Thursday.

The government has now confirmed that it will table an amendment to the bill to allow a special Oireachtas Committee examine the issue. 

It was agreed by the government that Cabinet members will be bound to support the amendment.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party is to discuss whether other party TDs not in Cabinet would get a free vote on the amendment. Fianna Fáil backbenchers are to be given a free vote on the amendment. 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan last week suggested that he would allow a conscience vote on the proposed legislation. 

A government spokesperson said such an emotive issue “merits further consideration”, stating that if it decided that the law should change on the matter, “it cannot be rushed”. 

The special committee will have 12 months to report back on the issue. 

The proposed legislation is also being backed by Sinn Féin, Labour and the Social Democrats.

Speaking this morning Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD said the party “wouldn’t want to see this being kicked down the road”.

“I think it’s very unfortunate, it has been delayed for so long, there’s been some very brave campaigners who have raised this issue and it’s an issue that is extremely, extremely difficult for all of us all,” he said.

However, the Rural Independents today spoke out against the Bill.

“I am fundamentally opposed to it, I believe it’s a slippery slope,” Mattie McGrath TD said.

“We’ve had these debates before on controversial issue around life, you know what I’m talking about. They were supposed to be safe, legal and rare, and we saw how it escalated to 6,666 people in 2019 alone. This is a slippery, conniving sly way of trying to change life values.”

The idea of a Citizens Assembly was previously mooted but it is understood that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said organising such an event in the midst of a pandemic would prove difficult.

Gino Kenny TD has said he is not opposed to the idea of an Assembly, but said has pointed out that politicians are elected to legislate.

He said delaying the issue to a special committee or a Citizens’ Assembly is merely “kicking the can” down the road.

He said there are situations where palliative care and hospice care will not ameliorate certain situations and certain illnesses, adding that a person should have a choice.

“This is totally unnecessary and a delaying tactic by the government,” Kenny said.

“The committee stage of the bills process would allow for testimony on the bill and this would allow for democratic discussion on the matter.

“We are legislators and we must deal with these difficult issues in the democratic forums that we have in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The government must withdraw their amendment.” 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

 

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