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Trouble brewing as Independent Alliance still want a free vote on Repeal the Eighth bill

An Independent Alliance source said the members have the same thoughts on the Bill as they did on Mick Wallace’s legislation on fatal foetal abnormalities.

Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan and Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath.
Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan and Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath.
Image: Sam Boal

INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE MEMBERS are still of the view that the alliance’s members should get a free vote on AAA-PBP’s bill on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

A Private Members Bill is to be debated on 25 October, with a vote taking place on 27 October.

The bill calls for a referendum to be held to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and allow the Dáil to legislate for abortion services in Ireland.

An Independent Alliance source said the members have the same thoughts on the bill as they did on Mick Wallace’s legislation on fatal foetal abnormalities.

Free vote 

Earlier this month, TheJournal.ie reported that members of the Independent Alliance wanted to avoid the “hassle” of the Wallace bill, which caused a divide in Government, and wanted a free vote to be granted this time around.

Reports this week that members had changed their stance on the issue and would support the Government were shot down yesterday.

A government spokesperson for the Independent Alliance said the rumour their viewpoint had changed was “wide off the mark”, adding there was “no substance in that at all”.

It’s understood they are holding the position that they did on Wallace’s bill and want a free vote on the issue.

It’s expected that Sports Minister Shane Ross, and junior ministers John Halligan and Finian McGrath would support the bill.

Junior minister Sean Canney and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran are expected to vote against the bill, along with the government.

Abortion rights 

Minister of State for Skills and Training, John Halligan, who has long been a thorn in the side of the government, has said on the record he will vote against government on the issue. Abortion rights is an issue he has spoken passionately about in the Dáil.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie before the summer, Halligan said he made it clear during government formation talks with Fine Gael that he is pro-choice, stating that it “didn’t go down well”.

When asked what way he would vote, he said:

I will vote any way I want to vote on that too. I will be voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It is not in programme of government from what I can see. And out that will go. I am not obliged to vote with the government on that, so that doesn’t impact on my principle on that.

Members of the Independent Alliance met yesterday evening to discuss the issue, though it’s understood no formal decision on the vote has been made.

Similar to Wallace’s bill, which divided the minority government, it’s understood negotiations on this issue “will go down to the wire”, according to one source.

Calling for support 

AAA-PBP TD Bríd Smith has called on Children’s Minister Katherine Minister Zappone, the Independent Alliance, Labour and Sinn Fein to support the Bill.

Referring to Zappone and specific members in the Independent Alliance, Smith said that “those who signed the pledge by the Repeal 8 Coalition and who, most importantly, marched for choice in September should vote for the AAA-PBP bill because it is the quickest way to repeal the 8th”.

Putting the pressure on, Smith also said that TD’s and Ministers who claim to be pro-repeal should not abandon their principles.

“I am calling on all pro-repeal people to join us outside the Dáil so that we can put pressure on the TDs and parties in the Oireachtas to vote for our bill.

“Anyone who does not vote for this bill, who claims to hold a pro-repeal position, is abandoning their principles and letting down women all over this country,” she said.

A government spokesperson said all government members signed up to the Citizens’ Assembly, and that process should be respected.

It’s understood the Taoiseach’s preference is that there be a consensus on the issue amongst government members and that the assembly be allowed to do its work.

Read: Watch: Micheál Martin calls AAA-PBP the ‘pro-Russia alliance’ as Dáil gets angry about Aleppo>

Read: No thanks! Government ministers have turned down a €12k pay rise >

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