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James Reilly and Enda Kenny
8th amendment

What to do about abortion? Enda wants the country to get together and talk about it

Taoiseach Enda Kenny briefed his party’s TDs and Senators on its position regarding the 8th Amendment this evening.

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has told Fine Gael TDs and Senators that he will consider allowing a free vote on the possible repeal of the 8th Amendment.

Kenny was speaking at this evening’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party where he proposed that the issue be considered by a citizen-led body, similar to the Constitutional Convention, in the next Dáil.

The repeal of the 8th Amendment, which gives equal right to the life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution, is likely to be one of the key issues at the next general election.

Labour today published proposals that would see the party commit to its repeal and  replacement with legislation for abortion on the grounds of risk to life, risk to health, rape and fatal foetal abnormality.

Kenny told TDs and Senators that it was a sensitive and complex issue and that he was proposing that Fine Gael’s next manifesto include a commitment to hold a citizen-led process to consider the issue.

The process would be similar to the Constitutional Convention set up by the current government which, among other things, recommended a referendum on same-sex marriage be held.

‘Free vote’

Kenny said he would consider allowing Fine Gael TDs and Senators a free vote on whatever this process recommends.

This is in sharp contrast to the strict whip applied to members on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill over two years ago. The bill legislated for abortion in cases where there was a risk to the life of the mother, including suicide.

Five Fine Gael TDs and two senators were expelled from the parliamentary party after voting against the government, including former junior minister Lucinda Creighton.

Fine Gael has come under pressure to outline its position on the 8th Amendment in recent months. Children’s Minister James Reilly called for its repeal in an interview with Sunday Independent last weekend.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said nearly a year ago that Ireland’s abortion laws are “too restrictive” but said the matter was one to be dealt with by the next government.

In June, a survey carried out by found most Fine Gael TDs and Senators reluctant to discuss the issue, but a split on whether or not to repeal among those who did respond.

Speaking today, Labour’s Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that his party would push for the repeal of the 8th to be included in the next programme for government if Labour is involved.

“Five years ago we said we wanted a referendum on marriage equality. We got a referendum on marriage equality because of the powers of our persuasion and what we intended to do in government and we intend to do the same thing again,” he said in relation to repealing the 8th Amendment.

Read: Why Lucinda Creighton was asked if she would have aborted Hitler

Read: This is the law that Labour wants to replace the 8th Amendment

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