Local Government TDs have branded as “cynical” and “opportunistic” a motion calling for the immediate introduction of legislation on the X Case in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Sinn Féin last night proposed the motion, calling on the Government to immediately publish the report of the Expert Group on the ABC v Ireland Judgment, and immediately introduce legislation to give effect to the 1992 Supreme Court judgement on the X Case.
The judgement ruled that abortion is permissible where there is a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the mother.
Sinn Féin’s motion is to be voted on by TDs today, Wednesday, but it has been roundly condemned by Fine Gael and Labour representatives in Galway, with Labour TD Derek Nolan suggesting the party is deliberating creating further division on a sensitive issue.
“This is about introducing a proper regime so that women are protected and women have rights over their health and not getting a bit of airtime in the Dáil or on television,” he said, adding that Labour has always been “open and honest” about its views on bringing legal clarity to the X Case ruling.
He also said that, while Government TDs are currently awaiting the findings of the report by the expert group, which is expected to be presented to Cabinet on Tuesday 27 November, there now appears to a clear majority in favour of legislating on the issue.
“Opinion in Ireland on abortion is very divided but it seems that there is mobility at the moment to try to get consensus from all the political parties,” he said.
Party colleague Deputy Colm Keaveney also said the “heartbreaking” case of Savita Halappanavar “highlights the need for legal certainty in these situations”.
Adding that the Government will now consider what is in the expert group’s report and move to provide the required legal clarity, he also said that Ireland should not, as a country, allow a situation where women’s lives are put at risk in this way.
“The Labour Party believes we must deal with the issue and bring legal clarity to it as soon as possible. Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Fine Gael Minister of State Ciaran Cannon, who said the Government intends to “actively engage with all interest groups to hear their views and concerns on this matter”.
“The issue of abortion and medical terminations is a very difficult one, which the Government has been committed to addressing since it came to office…This is a hugely contentious issue that has divided the country over the last 25 years, and it should be given the time and the very careful consideration it deserves.”
Also referring to Sinn Féin’s motion as an “opportunistic stunt”, Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh said the recommendations of the expert group would inform the course of action to be taken in relation to “this highly complex and sensitive issue”.
The expert group was established to examine the issues raised by the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in ABC v Ireland, which found that the State failed to provide an “accessible and effective procedure” by which the applicant, known as ‘C’, could have established whether she qualified for a lawful abortion in Ireland.
When contacted by the Galway Independent, Fine Gael Deputy Paul Connaughton said he felt it was important for political representatives to wait for the findings of the expert group report, and the independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Savita Halappanavar’s death, before commenting further.
Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne meanwhile said he has consistently supported the Government’s pledge to resolve the uncertainty surrounding the X Case and ABC v Ireland.
He added that, since re-entering the Dáil in 1997, Sinn Féin has never, up until this point, sought to move legislation on this issue. “Not one of their election manifestos from 2002, 2007 and 2011 contained references to abortion or the X case. Sadly, it appears to me that this week’s motion is more than a little opportunistic,” he said.
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh said he was not surprised at the comments from Government TDs on the motion, and pointed out that six previous governments had not legislated on the 1992 X Case ruling.
“The fact that they haven’t legislated could be a contributing factor to what happened in the Galway situation, if it caused any kind of an unclear situation for whoever was delivering the medical services there.
“We can’t afford for that to go on any longer; the Government have procrastinated on this as well since they came into office and we felt that it was really important that this was brought forward as a matter of urgency. It’s time for the Government backbenchers and the Government representatives to come into the mark and do the right thing,” he said.