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Lucinda: Party will have free vote on 'life' issues like euthanasia, abortion

Creighton has defined more clearly what she considers to be ‘matters of conscience’ to which the whip of new party will not apply.

John Leahy, Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs at the soft launch of their as-yet unnamed political party in January.
John Leahy, Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs at the soft launch of their as-yet unnamed political party in January.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE NOTION OF ‘matters of conscience’ can be a difficult one to define. When a new politicial party claims it will allow a free vote for its members on those issues, it’s worth pinning it down.

Lucinda Creighton addressed a group of all-female (at her request) journalists yesterday, during which she declared that her approach to recruiting candidates and soliciting input on yet-to-be-decided policies was going to upend traditional processes for such party foundation stones.

The new party – whose name will be revealed at the end of February – will also have a pretty relaxed whip system, according to Creighton. On ‘matters of conscience’, its members will not be penalised for voting against the top-level party policy on those issues.

What does Creighton consider to be a matter of conscience?

Following yesterday’s briefing, TheJournal.ie asked Creighton to define the term. She said that freedom of conscience would apply, in her opinion, to “issues pertaining to matters of life – euthanasia, abortion, the death penalty – areas where a person should never be obliged to vote against their conscience”.

European treaty vote Lucinda Creighton with her former boss, Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. She lost the party whip when she defied them and voted against abortion legislation. Source: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

However, the whip will be relaxed on a wider range of issues than that – in fact, Creighton said, members will only be sternly expected to toe the line in relation to economic legislation or motions of confidence.

The ethos of the party is to “support and encourage independent thinking and critical analysis”.

Certainly, there is diversity of opinion among the party members gathered thus far. For her part, Creighton defied the Fine Gael party whip in July 2013 for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill:

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

However, her party colleague Eddie Hobbs told TheJournal.ie last week that “Lucinda has her views” but that his position is that he is “for all choices up to point of abortion being used as an instrument of birth control… but anything short of that, I don’t see why not”.

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

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