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John Halligan lobbying for support for right-to-die bill

Halligan is now trying to find a workable mechanism that will bring the bill before the Dáil.
Dec 11th 2016, 7:15 AM 4,732 15

JUNIOR MINISTER JOHN Halligan is in discussions with both the Department of Health and the Department of Justice to have his right-to-die bill adopted as a government bill.

The Waterford TD previously told TheJournal.ie that he is planning to introduce a bill proposing to make assisted suicide legal in Ireland.

Halligan is now trying to find a way to bring the bill before the Dáil, which would be a first step to changing the law, and he is examining a number of possibilities.

The junior minister is currently liaising with officials in both departments in a bid to have it moved as a government bill.

Last month, and as reported by TheJournal.ie, he discussed the prospect of introducing a private member’s bill – an unusual move for a member of government – with Chief Whip Regina Doherty.

A private member’s bill can be initiated by any member of the opposition in the Dáil or Seanad, but generally it is not proposed by a member of government or minister of State.

It’s understood that Doherty has been very supportive of the junior minister in attempting to work out a workable mechanism.

In a statement about Halligan’s bill, Doherty acknowledged that while it is “unusual” for a junior minister to submit a private member’s motion, “the advice I have is that a minister would not necessarily be prevented by the Oireachtas from doing this”.

On the basis of this I have indicated to Minister Halligan that it is for him to make such a submission to the Oireachtas. Any private member’s bill that has been published can be submitted, by the deputy who published it, into the weekly business committee lottery.

However, a spokesperson for the junior minister said Halligan is now looking at a number of options to progress his bill.

Getting one of the departments to adopt it as a government bill would not be unusual as something similar had been done with Fine Gael Sligo TD Tony McLoughlin’s bill on fracking, said Halligan’s spokesperson.

This would mean that he would not have to introduce it as a private member’s bill.

“He [Halligan] is trying to establish which would be the most appropriate way forward,” said the spokesperson.

Like the fracking bill, Halligan is understood to have garnered cross-party support on the issue.

Last month the Waterford TD said he had spoken to a number of TDs in favour of legislation. He added that he is calling for a free vote, if or when the bill is introduced.

“When it comes before the Dáil I think we might surprise people,” said Halligan, speculating it could be passed with a substantial margin.

A statement from the Department of Health stated:

Assisted suicide is illegal in Ireland under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993. As this relates to criminal law matters, it falls under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Department of Justice was asked for a statement but one was not supplied by the time of publication.

Read: Junior Minister John Halligan’s right-to-die bill may be “unusual” but there are no rules against it >

Read: Mother whose son was killed by drink driver brings about change in bail law>

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Christina Finn

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