Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

'No bullying' over abortion vote

'There is absolutely no bullying going on,' said Dr James Reilly

The Health Minister has denied politicians were bullied into voting for the new contentious abortion legislation.

Dr James Reilly said he regretted the loss of some Fine Gael party colleagues, but stressed the whip system was democratic and ensured party discipline. He rejected claims that TDs were being expelled from the party for voting with their conscience against the bill, which will allow abortion when a woman is suicidal if passed on Wednesday.

"There is absolutely no bullying going on here at all," said Dr Reilly. "What is being implemented is a whip system that everybody understands and has been with us for generations. It's not something we dreamt up yesterday..

"We need to meet the needs of the people and do what's right for the people believe that's what we are doing. I regret that we have lost some and I hope that we don't lose any more," he told RTE.

Dr Reilly said protecting the life of the unborn will be very clear in the amendments he will be bringing forward to Cabinet. Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton - the most senior figure expected to vote against the legislation - has said TDs must stand up and make the right choice on Wednesday and vote for "evidence-based" legislation.

She has lodged a series of amendments to the proposed legislation, including changing a clause allowing abortion when an expectant mother is at risk of suicide and for a gestation period after which an abortion cannot be carried out.

Dr Reilly denied her claims of "group-think" around the legislation, insisting no other bill before the house has had so much debate. He stated the Government had "made it very clear" no other changes will be made to the legislation in its lifetime, like allowing abortion when a woman has been raped or for fatal foetal abnormalities.

Peter Mathews, Terence Flanagan, Brian Walsh and Billy Timmins were automatically expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party and face being kicked off Oireachtas committees after they voted against the Government in the first series of ballots. As many as seven more Fine Gael TDs, including Ms Creighton, are said to be toying with rebellion over the bill.

The Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, commended politicians for being prepared to take a stand at personal and professional cost. "I hail the courage of those TDs, men and women, in Dail Eireann who refuse to bend to weavers of party political mantras, who recognise that the Taoiseach and the government have failed to engage with key and substantive issues raised in reasoned comment on both grounds of pure reason as well as on grounds linking human reason and Christian faith," he said at Saul Mountain.

"This failure has seriously impoverished the quality of the public and political debate. It has dealt a fatal blow to the legitimacy of the political and legislative process. It has, I believe, disenfranchised massive numbers of citizens of the republic."

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