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Eamon Ryan says a conscience vote on next week's assisted dying bill 'is a real possibility'

The bill is set to be debated next Thursday.

Transport Minister and Green party leader Eamon Ryan.
Transport Minister and Green party leader Eamon Ryan.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

GREEN PARTY LEADER Minister Eamon Ryan has suggested that a conscience vote within his party on next week’s bill on assisted dying is “real possibility”. 

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 next week. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Kenny sought Ryan’s support in allowing members of the three-party coalition a free vote on the bill, instead of being subject to a party whip.  

“Next Thursday a very, very important debate will happen in this house. The Dying with Dignity Bill will be debated next Thursday, and I understand there’s a variety of views, not only in political parties, not only in this house but in society as a whole,” Kenny told the Dáil.

But I’m calling on you to support a vote of conscience, not only in your own party, but also the government parties as well. Because it’s very, very important there’s a rational debate on this issue, which is very important to society as a whole. 

In response, Ryan said it would be a matter for each party to decide whether there would be a conscience vote for its members. Ryan said the bill hasn’t yet been discussed by the government collectively but he suggested that his Green Party would be amenable to allowing a conscience vote.

PastedImage-34141 People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny. Source: Oireachtas.ie

“I’m aware of the legislation and talked to you last week about it. It hasn’t been discussed as a Cabinet and we haven’t discussed as yet with our own party, but my understanding is certainly with our own party’s perspective that such flexibility or such an approach is a real possibility,” he said

It’s not the norm in this house but where there are matters of complex conscience, where there’s very different views, that tends to be a possibility. So I certainly would not rule that out. Following a discussion with our own party we’ll revert back to you on what our approach is.

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“As I said, it hasn’t been discussed in government yet but each party would have to speak for itself in tune with the sort of approach, that this is not something we divide on party political grounds,” Ryan added. 

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night, party TDs and Senators also spoke in favour of a free vote on the legislation. Others, however, raised concerns about the divergence of opinion on the issue and the intense lobbying representatives would get on the matter.

Party leader Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the party meeting that he would favour the establishment of a special Oireachtas Committee to look at the issue of assisted dying, similar to what was done on the Eighth Amendment. 

- With reporting by Christina Finn

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