A week, as they say, is a long time in politics and no where was this more true last week than in Galway West where the stepping out and stepping in again was reminiscent of a scene from Lannigan’s Ball.
Out stepped Galway West Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh, saying he could not support his Government’s proposed Protection of Pregnancy in Life Bill 2013 because of his ‘serious concerns in relation to the inclusion of suicidal ideation as a ground for legal abortion, contrary to the overwhelming medical evidence presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children earlier this year by psychiatrists and other clinicians’; his ‘additional concerns regarding the absence of a gestational time limit in the legislation’, which he considered to be ‘deeply troubling’; and the fact that he believes the Bill provides a legislative framework that has the potential to ultimately result in a more liberal abortion regime than is currently intended.
Out stepped Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, who also expressed concerns on the inclusion of suicide risks as a grounds for abortion and the absence of term limits, which she described as ‘quite barbaric’.
In stepped former Galway City Councillor Hildegarde Naughton, who party leader Enda Kenny deftly used to send a short sharp message to the renegades that their disobedience will not be tolerated, not now and not in the future.
However, whether Deputy Walsh or Senator Healy Eames will ultimately be out-stepped by their Galway West rival remains to be seen, as there seems to be some sympathy for the duo, outside party circles at least, for the stance they have taken on the abortion issue.
It also remains to be seen where the electorate ultimately come down on the abortion issue, as the Labour Party seems intent to revisit the issue of abortion in the run-up to the next General Election.
At the moment, Senator Healy Eames’ assertion that the handling of the issue will be damaging for the party seems at odds with the fact that the majority of TDs, rightly or wrongly, are toeing the party line.
But, will the electorate respect the two representatives’ decision to apparently put their principles before politics, or will the grassroots rise up and support them?
It’s impossible to say. But, if a week is a long time in politics, then the gap between now and the next General Election is an eternity and whether the grassroots or the electorate will even want to broach the subject matter again, especially with Independents who will be seen to have little sway, seems unlikely.