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13 Labour TDs missed the Dáil vote on abortion last night

A large number of Labour deputies missed the vote on a bill to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th Amendment.

The result of the Dáil vote on Clare Daly's private members' bill last night
The result of the Dáil vote on Clare Daly's private members' bill last night
Image: Oireachtas TV

Updated 2.05pm

THIRTEEN LABOUR TDs missed last night’s Dáil vote on a bill to repeal the 8th Amendment amid suggestions some may have missed it on purpose.

United Left TD Clare Daly’s private members’ bill to hold a referendum to repeal the controversial constitutional amendment, which enshrines the protection of the life of the unborn, was defeated by 110 votes to 13. The proposed legislation was opposed by the government parties, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and some independents.

Many in Labour have recently called for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment, but the party has stressed it does not have a mandate to go any further on the issue in this government.

A total of 13 of Labour’s 34 TDs were absent for the vote including several deputies who have been outspoken in calling for the widening of abortion laws such as junior minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Ciara Conway. The Tánaiste Joan Burton and her predecessor Eamon Gilmore were also missing.

Some had agreed pairings with opposition deputies as they had other commitments. Though the absence of TDs from Dáil votes is not uncommon, the unusually high number of Labour absentees has led to suggestions that some purposely missed the vote.

One party source suggested prior to last night’s vote that some deputies could be “missing”. Several of the absent Labour deputies contacted by would not comment this morning.

Labour whip Emmet Stagg, who was also absent due to a constituency engagement, said that all of the missing TDs had “an agreed absence” adding that he was aware of the large majority that would be voting against the bill in the Dáil

Labour’s official policy is to make it legal to obtain an abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and it’s also likely to include a commitment to hold a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment in its next manifesto.

Burton is on record as saying she would like cases of fatal foetal abnormality covered by abortion law in this country and has also indicated she could support legislating for abortion in cases of rape and incest.

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The other absent Labour TDs were Anne Ferris, Michael Conaghan, Eamonn Maloney, Eric Byrne, Willie Penrose, Seán Sherlock, Ruairí Quinn, and Michael McCarthy.

Some confirmed they had agreed pairings with opposition deputies, including the Tánaiste who had commitments in the Seanad. Ferris could not attend as she was dealing with a serious family illness. Byrne also confirmed that he had a pairing.

Sherlock, the junior foreign affairs minister, has had a pairing for a number of weeks due to his commitments with the Northern Ireland talks in Stormont.

Stagg did not directly comment on the claim that some TDs were absent on purpose but noted that Labour’s Christmas party was taking place last night.

Enda: Leo Varadkar spoke ‘in a personal capacity’ on abortion issue

Read: It looks like Labour’s next manifesto will commit to widening Ireland’s abortion laws

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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