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Revealed: At least 6 Fianna Fáil TDs and most senators to oppose abortion bill

With a free vote, at least a dozen TDs and senators from the main opposition party are likely to oppose the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, according to a survey carried out by TheJournal.ie.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE DECISION TO allow members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party (PP) a free vote on the upcoming abortion legislation will see at least a dozen of its 33 TDs and senators voting against the legislation.

Though party leader Micheál Martin plans to support the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill when it goes through the Oireachtas later this summer he faces significant opposition to the law from within his own ranks, according to a survey of Fianna Fáil PP members by TheJournal.ie this week.

This website has established that at least 6 TDs will oppose the legislation, with just four – including Martin – confirming their definitive support for it. In the Seanad, just three senators confirmed their support for the legislation. TheJournal.ie understands that the majority of Fianna Fáil senators will oppose the Bill.

Last month, Fianna Fáil decided to allow members to vote for or against the legislation – which will give a statutory footing to the X Case  - without the threat of losing the party whip.

TheJournal.ie contacted all members of the PP this week and got responses from most. However a number of TDs and Senators did not return repeated messages asking for their view on the proposed legislation.

TDs

Six TDs including the party’s high-profile finance spokesperson Michael McGrath and the chair of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness are opposing the legislation.

Former ceann comhairle Seamus Kirk, Mayo TD Dara Calleary, Wexford deputy John Browne and former deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuiv are also opposing the legislation.

Many of those opposed to it cited issues with Head 4 of the Bill concerning abortion being permissible in cases where a woman’s life is at risk as a result of her being suicidal.

Calleary said he had “difficulty with the whole area around suicide” while Ó Cuív said “the other parts of the Bill are a no-brainer” but Head 4 is problematic. McGrath said: “I will be opposing the legislation on the issue of a suicide clause, it’s not a thing I could support.”

Those supporting the legislation include Limerick TD Niall Collins, Laois-Offaly deputy Barry Cowen, and Clare TD Timmy Dooley who told TheJournal.ie: “I think it’s the right thing to do in building in a series of safeguards that are required.

“Doctors will have a degree of certainty in which to operate and it will avoid the type of situation that we have seen in the Savita case. In an ideal world there would be no abortion and no suicide but we don’t live in an ideal world.”

The party’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said he will support the “general principle of the legislation” but planned to table amendments to it. Laois-Offaly TD Seán Fleming and the Dáil’s Leas Ceann Comhairle Michael Kitt said they wanted to see the final version of the legislation before deciding.

Former minister and Limerick TD Willie O’Dea said he has not yet made a decision on the matter and the party’s children’s spokesperson Robert Troy said his vote “will become known the day of the vote in the Dáil”.

Charlie McConalogue, Michael Moynihan, Seán Ó Fearghail, and Brendan Smith did not return several requests for comment.

Senators

In the Seanad, just three of Fianna Fáil’s 14 senators confirmed they would support the legislation – Ned O’Sullivan, Averil Power and Mary White.

Both women are the only females in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party with White stating: “We’ve two women in the parliamentary party and the two women support it.”

Two senators Darragh O’Brien and Thomas Byrne would not confirm which way they would vote with Byrne saying: “You know a free vote is good in theory but in practice it can lead to a huge amount of pressure on individual members on both sides of the debate.”

Of the six senators who confirmed they will oppose the legislation most identified the suicide clause as the reason for their opposition with Paschal Mooney saying: “No I won’t be supporting the legislation, because I don’t believe in the deliberate killing of the baby in the womb.”

Senators Mark Daly, Diarmuid Wilson, and Denis O’Donovan did not return several requests for comment.

Martin: ‘Wrong to say someone who supports abortion bill is pro-abortion’

Read: Fianna Fáil to examine if free votes should be given more often

Explainer: A crash course on how the abortion proposals will become law

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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