Divisive plans to introduce the first laws allowing limited abortion in Ireland have moved a step closer, despite a potentially damaging revolt in Government ranks.
Up to 10 members of the senior coalition party Fine Gael are expected to rebel over the legislation, which is designed to allow terminations if a woman's life is at risk.
Four voted against the Government in the first of a series of ballots. Lucinda Creighton, Minister for European Affairs, has yet to formally declare her intention but she is believed to be the most senior figure opposed to some of the legislation.
Despite her opposition to a clause allowing abortion where an expectant mother is at risk of suicide, Ms Creighton voted in line with the Government.
Proposed amendments to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 will now be considered.
Four Fine Gael TDs - Peter Mathews, Terence Flanagan, Billy Timmins and Brian Walsh - now face expulsion from the party for leading the rebellion.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald warned that while Taoiseach Enda Kenny does not want to lose any deputies, he has been clear that rebel backbenchers will lose the party whip and their position in the parliamentary party.
She said he has "nailed his colours to the mast" regarding the "important legislation".
The so-called suicide clause has been the biggest bone of contention among Government TDs.
Ms Creighton and a further half dozen members of the party may yet refuse to support the legislation if it is not removed. They have argued suicide should not serve as legal grounds for the procedure, with some claiming a termination could do more damage to a woman's mental health.