Abortion legislation debate - As it happened

Updated: Wednesday, 17 Jul 2013 12:12

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TDs have voted by 127 to 31 in favour of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

TDs have voted by 127 to 31 in favour of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill

- Dáil made its way through 165 proposed amendments

- Paschal Donohoe as Minister of State for European Affairs

- Former Minister of State Lucinda Creighton voted against the Government, and loses the party whip

- Sinn Féin's Peadar Toibín suspended for six months

- High Court refused a challenge to the abortion bill earlier

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That's it from our second liveblog. In the end the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was passed by a sizeable majority - 127 to 31.

Former Minister of State Lucinda Creighton was one of five Fine Gael TDs to vote against the Government and tendered her resignation to Enda Kenny, while Sinn Féin's Peadar Toibín has been suspended for six months.

At 2am, the Taoiseach announced Paschal Donohoe had been appointed as Minister of State for European Affairs.

The bill now goes to the Seanad.


Fine Gael Chairman Charlie Flanagan is the first from the party to congratulate Paschal Donohoe on his new role as Minister of State. 


The Government has appointed Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe as Minister of State for European Affairs.

In a statement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "Paschal has developed a deep understanding of European issues.

"I previously appointed him as chairperson of the special Oireachtas Committee to review the result of the first Lisbon Treaty referendum, the report of which greatly contributed to identifying the main issues of concern.

"More recently, he has served as vice chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs.

"I am sure that Paschal Donohoe will be an excellent minister of state and that he will make an important contribution to the continued enhancement of Ireland's role in the European Union."

He was first elected as a TD for the Dublin Central constituency in 2011


Peadar Toibín has been suspended from Sinn Féin for six months for not supporting Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

In a statement Sinn Féin party whip in the Dáil, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said: "Sinn Féin has supported the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill and all Sinn Féin TDs were mandated to vote for this legislation.

"The decision this evening by Peadar Toibín TD to vote against the Sinn Féin position is a serious breach of party rules.

"As a consequence Peadar Toibín has been suspended from Sinn Féin for six months with immediate effect.

"Peadar has been informed of this decision."


Lucinda Creighton has said she has given her letter of resignation to Taoiseach Enda Kenny


And this from the Associated Press




The Government has passed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill by 127 votes to 31.

Of the 165 proposed amendments, only those proposed by Minister for Health James Reilly were accepted, which led to criticism from Opposition TDs.

The Bill now moves to the Seanad.


The final vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is taking place


The Government has won the vote on amendment 150, on the criminalisation of abortion, by 110 votes to 13 


Minister for Health James Reilly said he could not see a situation where a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to 14 years for procuring an abortion.

He said he could not give a guarantee this would be so, however.

He said the 14 year sentence was advised by the Attorney General, who said it was necessary.


Lucinda Creighton said that if the Dáil was to respect article 40.3.3. of the constitution it would be bizarre not to have sanctions if that was flouted.

She said that 14 years was an extremely harsh sentence for someone who would be in a very difficult situation.

She said the 14-year prison sentence should be reduced to five years.


Fine Gael TD Tom Barry's actions in the Dáil last night features prominently on the front pages of the Irish Daily Mail, Irish Independent, Evening Herald and The Sun newspapers


Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher asked could a 14-year-old girl be prosecuted and sentenced to 14 years in prison, because she was in fear and had nobody to tell about a crisis pregnancy.


Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it is only a matter of time before a case comes through the courts on the criminalisation of abortion. He said it could be likely that a case may happen after a young woman has taken abortion tablets.

He said it would underscore how inappropriate the law is.

He said it is necessary for those carrying out abortions illegally, but not for those who seek and secure abortions.

He pointed out that the possession of abortion tablets was not illegal here, just the use of them. 

"Should a woman go north of the border for a glass of water?" he asked.


Minister of State Brian Hayes has said Lucinda Creighton exiting from the parliamentary party is disappointing for Fine Gael and the Government.

He said she was a terrific Minister for European Affairs and time is a great healer and he would like to see her back in the party in the future.


Independent TD Catherine Murphy says the criminalisation of women seeking abortion could open up Ireland to a further challenge under the European court of human rights.

A remedy which is not accessible is not a remedy,” she said.



Testy exchanges between Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett as Mr Boyd-Barrett concludes his speech on the criminalisation of abortion


The debate has moved onto the criminalisation of abortion. Independent TD Mick Wallace asked the Government to explain how a woman who buys abortion pills of the internet could be sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said he was "genuinely shocked" by the 14-year prison sentence for women who procure abortions, or for those who provide them. 

He said the criminalisation only served to reinforce stigma.





Watch Lucinda Creighton's Prime Time interview with Katie Hannon here


Lucinda Creighton has confirmed she will resign from her post within the Department of the Taoiseach.

She said she was very sad to forfeit her job and lose her position in Fine Gael, but she knew the consequences when she cast her vote.

"I hold no rancour or bitterness or anything like that," Ms Creighton said.

"I'm very sad, but I genuinely wish Enda Kenny and all the Government the very best."

Ms Creighton, who has been a member of Fine Gael since she was 18, spoke to the Taoiseach after her rebellion.

She said she still has "huge admiration" for him.

"I'm very sad. I love my job. I've been very privileged to perform my functions and duties as minister for European affairs for the last two years and more, and it's very sad for me that that is over. But I knew the consequences when I voted," Ms Creighton added.


Opposition deputies have criticised the method by which the current stage of the bill has been conducted.

Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín said it was clear that the bill was "locked down" and that the Government was not going to make any changes whatsoever.

Róisín Shortall said there was a complete absence of generosity or collegiality in relation to the bill.

She said "not a single jot of an amendment was allowed in the entire debate", adding that it displayed an extraordinary arrogance on the part of the Government which appeared to have a monopoly of wisdom.

Deputy Shortall said it indicated the knife edge on which the bill was agreed between the two parties in Government and that the political imperative was that there would be no changes irrespective of the arguments made.


Vote on amendment 118 on a wording issue the independent Deputy Naughten raised has been defeated.


Speaking after Ms Creighton's decision, Fine Gael Chief Whip Charlie Flanagan said he very much regretted her decision, but the rules of Fine Gael are unambiguous and she has now left the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.

He said he thought it was unprecedented for a Government minister to place amendments to legislation for another minister.

He also pointed out that party rules say anyone can reapply in the future but he would not speculate about the future.


Katie Hannon is interviewing Lucinda Creighton on RTÉ's Prime Time in her first interview since the vote


Read Ms Creighton's statement in full


In a statement, Ms Creighton said she is 'deeply disappointed' to have to vote against the Government's abortion legislation. 

"I never wished or expected to be expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party. This is the party I have worked for unstintingly since I was 18 years old."

"Promises matter in politics, but particularly in relation to matters of life and death. This is a promise I could not renege on in any circumstances," the statement adds.


Amendment 56 was proposed by deputies Mattie McGrath, Billy Timmins, Terence Flanagan, Éamon Ó Cuív and Peadar Tóibín.

The Government won the vote by 130 to 24.


RTÉ’s Political Correspondent David McCullagh says there is optimism that the business of the bill will be finished by midnight.

Or if it is close to being finished at midnight, deputies might continue to debate the legislation for a short time after that.


Lucinda Creighton has voted against the Government in a vote on the abortion legislation and is out of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

The vote on amendment 56, which related to the suicide clause, took place just before 9pm.

She was one of 24 TDs to vote against the amendment. Ms Creighton now loses the party whip and in time is expected to lose her job as Minister of State for European Affairs.


Lucinda Creighton has voted against the Government - and automatically loses the party whip


The Dáil has discussed amendments to add urgency to the review process outlined in the bill.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Catherine Murphy and Séamus Healy are among the deputies calling for the amendments.

Minister of State Alex White said the formal review process needs time but if a woman's condition is to deteriorate that is covered in Section Eight.


Watch a range of reports on the abortion debate on tonight's Six One News.


A vote on amendment 30, proposed by Catherine Murphy, Seamus Healy and Mick Wallace, has been defeated by 128 votes against to 14 votes in favour. The amendment is lost.


The first Dáil vote of this evening's debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill has been called.


RTÉ's Political Correspondent David McCullagh says that Fine Gael's Lucinda Creighton has withdrawn her first amendment.


Minister James Reilly said that the legislation only applies where there is a real and substantial risk to the life and not the health of the woman.

The bill does prohibit the killing of a viable foetus. He said that he cannot accept the amendments.

The minister said that you cannot set a limit on a right. You cannot say to a woman that she can be saved over 24 weeks but not under 24 weeks. He said that would be unconstitutional.

He said the only treatment to divert the real and substantial risk is inside this bill.

Mr Reilly said he knows everyone has very strong views on this issue in the house, but he believes the bill will clarify the law.


Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said that where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, she has the right to have her life saved.

She said that if you start saying that risk of death has to be set aside, then you are putting the life of the mother at risk and denying her, her rights.


Minister of State Lucinda Creighton said the bill prohibits the killing of a viable foetus.

She said she just wants to define what viability actually means.


Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher said every effort must be made to save the life of the child where viable.

He said it is a reaffirmation of the thrust of the legislation.

Mr Kelleher said that when talking about these amendments, he would be opposed to the legislation if somehow he thought that a baby at 34 weeks would be taken from the womb and killed.

He said that if we talk about gestational limits, we are putting the life of the mother against the life of the unborn.


Brian Walsh said the absence of gestational time limits raised the prospect of gravely troubling scenarios.

At 24 or 25 weeks the child may survive the termination but being prematurely induced the child could be condemned to a lifetime of disability or institutionalisation, he said.


Michael Creed of Fine Gael said there is a lot of confusion about the legislation in the context of gestational limits.

If you have a limit, he said, then you are saying to a woman that "you are past the point of rescue". He said that is a barbaric proposal.

Mr Creed said that a child may be viable, but not viable independently outside the womb.


Terence Flanagan said there is a lot of genuine concern and unease concerning the area of late term termination.

He asked the minister if regulations in the area are available.


Fine Gael's Liam Twomey said it would be difficult to explain the legislation to a patient unless they were deeply involved in its formation.

He called for a clear, concise debate this evening.


Richard Boyd Barrett said if Minister for Health James Reilly did not accept the amendments it will show that it has been a one-sided debate.

He accused Mr Reilly of restricting the intent of the bill, which is to protect the lives of women.


Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said it was clear in one of the presentations during the committee hearings that the legislation only applied in emergency situations.

Referring to women who have pre-existing medical conditions or developing medical conditions during pregnancy, Ms Mitchell said there is a lack of clarity for those women who will have to continue the practice of having to go to England for terminations.


Independent TD Denis Naughten has said he does not want deputies leaving the Oireachtas saying they had no other choice but to legislate for suicide.

Putting forward his amendment, he said it was not right to say the Oireachtas must legislate for suicide because it is legislating for the X case.

He said his amendment puts in a caveat that it is only current medical based treatment, which means suicide cannot be put in it.


As the Dáil debate continues, new figures released today show that 11 women travelled from Ireland to Britain every day for an abortion last year.

The UK Department of Health said almost 4,000 women gave an Irish address at clinics in England or Wales in 2012.


Fianna Fáil's Seamus Kirk asked the minister to seriously and genuinely consider putting a time limit into the legislation.


Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín has said it is an appalling vista that the legislation has the possibility of disabling a child brought to term at the cusp of viability.

He said it would be wrong to debate the issue and blank out the potential for children to be born with disabilities.


Róisín Shortall is proposing the insertion of gestational limits into the bill. She said that it is unacceptable that there are no gestational limits.

Ms Shortall proposed that a provision be made for the minister to set term limits.

She said that the issue was raised by the Master of the Rotunda, but there was no serious attempt made to address the concerns of Sam Coulter Smith.


Minister for State Lucinda Creighton has put forward amendments that would make it an offence for an abortion to be carried out in situations where the unborn is viable and where it is possible for a delivery to be induced and the unborn be saved.

She said it enforces in legislation what the Government stated already to be the constitutional position - that once an unborn reaches the point of viability, doctors must preserve the life of the unborn.


Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said there was no national emergency last night and that sitting until 5am was "shambolic".


Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Tom Barry has been "severely reprimanded" by the party's general secretary after an incident during the Dáil debate on the bill last night.

The Cork TD was seen pulling a female colleague onto his lap during the debate at about 2.40am.

Read more... 


RTÉ Political Correspondent David McCullagh says the pace of the Dáil debate has picked up considerably this evening. However, there is still more than 145 amendments to get through.


Amendments 13, 19, 14, 15 and 16 have been defeated.


Minister Reilly pointed out that it is an offence to destroy an unborn life.

He said in circumstances where an unborn is potentially viable outside the womb, doctors must make all efforts to ensure life outside the womb.


Fine Gael's Denis Naughten has sought clarification from the Minister for Health James Reilly, ensuring no medical procedure can destroy a foetus where there is a possibility a baby can survive outside the womb.


Back in the Dáil, Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that apart from the amendments to the bill put down by Government parties, amendments will not be accepted.

He said the bill was not going to be in every labour ward "delivering these services" and deputies are putting amendments down in the hope that they would be accepted in good faith.


Elsewhere, the President of the High Court today refused to grant an injunction to a Dublin woman aimed at stopping provisions of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill being voted into law. Read more... 


Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said the debate may spill over into tomorrow, if necessary.


Amendment 12 in relation to the inclusion of the word "incest" in the bill has been defeated.


RTÉ's Joe Mag Raollaigh reports that a group of about 30 people opposed to abortion are protesting outside Leinster House. (Pic: Aisling Kenny)


Richard Boyd Barrett TD said that women will not go near this procedure as it is so restrictive against women who are in a vulnerable position.

The debate has not focused on the thousands of women who travel to the UK because they feel their health or well-being is at risk, or they have been raped or the victims of incest.


Clare Daly TD said where a woman believes that it is in her best interest to have a termination, that option should be available to her.


Joan Collins TD said we should not allow women to be treated as second and third class citizens.


Joe Higgins TD has moved the group of amendments 12 (and related amendments 16, 31 and 84.)

The group of amendments deal with abortion in the cases of incest and rape.

Criticising the way the overnight debate was conducted, he said that "we finished at matins and we recommenced at vespers".

He said it is wrong that a woman who has been raped and avails of a termination in this State, that she and the practitioner carrying out the termination would be open to a 14-year prison sentence.

Mr Higgins said this is wrong and if the amendment is not dealt with now, he will bring it up again in the Dáil.


RTÉ's Mícheál Lehane sent this image of efforts to deal with melting candle wax from last night's vigil. It has been causing something of a safety hazard outside Leinster House.


And we're off again ... with our second live blog as another round of discussions on the abortion legislation gets under way in the Dáil.

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