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The Ceann Comhairle has called for the whip to be dropped on issues on conscience

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Ceann Comhairle expressed his views specifically in relation to the Eight Amendment.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall

THE CEANN COMHAIRLE Seán Barrett has expressed his view that free votes should be taken on issues of conscience within the house.

Speaking in today’s The Irish Times, Barrett expressed this view in relation to a potential vote on changes to the Eight Amendment.

In his comments, the Ceann Comhairle reflected on his time as the Government Chief Whip for the Fine Gael and Labour in the 1980s.

Eight Amendment 

The Eight Amendment was introduced into the Irish Constitution during Barret’s tenure in the postion in 1983.

The Amendment changed the text to acknowledge the equal right to life of a mother and her child.

After some debate around whether the initial Fianna Fáil-proposed wording of the amendment was too ‘pro-life’ – an alternative Government wording was proposed by Fine Gael and voted down in a free vote.

Speaking about the incident, Barrett said, “I’m not in favour of abortion myself, personally, but this wasn’t about abortion. This was about a wording that was going to cause difficulties.”

I often felt that on issues like that, the whip system doesn’t do any good.

Barrett went on to say that the use of the whip system in certain circumstances created a situation where the public could received wrong informaiton as it doesn’t allow for a “open, technical debate on a written constitution.”

Standing down 

As part of the interview Barrett said that he may stand down from his position as Ceann Comhairle before the next election – meaning a return to the Fine Gael backbenches.

Read: Gerry Adams wants Sean Barrett to meet with him over ongoing issues

Also: It looks like this man could be facing a motion of no confidence pretty soon

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