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'I think Ireland is ready for this': Campaigners welcome result of Dáil vote on assisted dying legislation

The Dying with Dignity Bill passed to committee stage last night.

Vicky Phelan: called on TDs to vote in favour of the Dying with Dignity Bill
Vicky Phelan: called on TDs to vote in favour of the Dying with Dignity Bill
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT TD Gino Kenny has paid tribute to assisted dying campaigners after the Dáil voted to send the Dying with Dignity Bill to committee stage.

Kenny also suggested an Oireachtas committee could finalise a report on assisted dying by early spring, but said it remains “difficult to know” if the legislation could become law by next year.

The bill, which was tabled by Kenny, was voted to committee stage by 81 to 71 in the Dáil last night, after Government TDs were given a free vote on it.

That followed the earlier defeat of a Government motion that would have seen a special Oireachtas committee look at the issue of assisted dying, a process that would have delayed any proposed legislation by up to a year or more.

The proposed legislation would permit assisted dying in limited circumstances, allowing medical professionals to help some terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this afternoon, Kenny expressed happiness about the result of last night’s vote, particularly for Vicky Phelan and Tom Curran, whose partner Marie Fleming lost a landmark case on the right to die in 2013.

“I’m delighted for them because they’re among those who’ve been campaigning for this for a long time,” Kenny said.

“Last night was a significant step in changing the law. We’re still not there yet and there’s still a long way to go to change the law on assisted dying, but it was a good day for democracy.”

Phelan said she didn’t expect the legislation to pass as it did, believing that the Government’s proposal for a special committee would pass instead.

“I was really biting my nails, but it was very welcome. I’m really delighted to see that it went through,” she said.

“I was here in front of the television like I was watching Liverpool and Manchester United. I was hopping up and down watching the numbers. I couldn’t sit down.”

In recent weeks, Phelan appealed to all TDs to support the bill, saying that assisted dying offered hope to people with a terminal illness. 

“I’m at a stage now where I won’t have more than two years left,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“I could need this bill, because things are starting to change for me. Whether the bill is in place by the time I’m dying, probably not; that’s the reality.

“But I don’t think it can be ignored at this stage. I think that Ireland is ready for this. There are some people who strongly disagree with it, but I don’t think the arguments are strong enough.”

She also welcomed the fact that an Oireachtas committee would now be able to scrutinise the bill, adding that she would not like to see a broader bill in place that would allow those who were not terminally ill to avail of medical assistance in dying.

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With reporting by Rónán Duffy.

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