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'Those tapes are trying to sow division' - Minister dismisses abortion 'sting' job

Discussions between Labour and Fine Gael on proposed abortion legislation continues this weekend.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

AGRICULTURE MINISTER SIMON Coveney has said the government will not rush agreement on proposed abortion legislation, stating it could take “another week or two”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week in Politics, the Fine Gael deputy said there would be a “clearer view” on the issue after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

He said he has held a “number of private conversations” with the Minister for Health to put across his opinions, adding that he shared “practically all of Lucinda’s [Creighton] views on the issue”.

Asked about today’s Sunday Independent front page – which revealed transcripts from taped conversations with two Labour TDs who both indicated the legislation could be used as a stepping stone for less restrictive regimes in the future – the Minister dismissed the reports.

“Those tapes are trying to sow division,” he said. “They are also conversations that took place a year ago…It was some kind of sting operation to catch people out. That is not the basis for a sensible discussion on the issue to try and find a compromise for people to live with.”

RTÉ has reported that the coalition parties are close to an agreement on proposed abortion legislation following last week’s row over the number of doctors that would need to be consulted in the case of a termination request where the woman is suicidal.

“We are legislating essentially for the status quo whereby terminations would happen in rare circumstances when there is a measurable and real threat to the life of the mother,” continued Coveney. “And there is going to be a maintenance of the protection of the life of the unborn.”

There is no surprise that people have varying views on the circumstances of where termination should be available. Those views are deeply held. It is not difficult to catch someone out on this issue.

A compromise legislation will almost certainly see fewer than six consultants on a panel. Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who is one of five ministers involved in high-level talks, told TheJournal.ie this week that six “is clearly too many” for such a decision. It is understood that there will be a two-pronged process for any woman seeking an abortion as a result of suicide ideation.

According to RTÉ, the Protection of Maternal Life Bill 2013 will only allow for terminations in defined circumstances and prohibit the licensing of clinics.

Labour TDs Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Anne Ferris have been contacted for comment but were not available at time of publication.

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