An Taoiseach Enda Kenny is after coming through one of the most testing weeks of his leadership of the country with the publication of the Heads of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill on Tuesday evening. Kenny faced a tough task of bringing the members of the parliamentary party behind him on such a sensitive topic. But reports of a meeting of the party placed them firmly behind him in the majority.
However, there are a number of members who have aired their serious concerns in the past and did so again during the week, including two of his constituency colleagues, Michelle Mulherin TD and John O’Mahony TD.
Yesterday, Mulherin spoke to the Mayo Advertiser about the proposed bill and the good she saw in it and the other areas she had concern over. “I welcome some aspects of the bill, especially where it deals with the risk to the life of the mother from a physical illness. But there are other parts that I have concerns about.
“I’ll be guided by the medical people, they should be given the freedom to do what they have to do within the constraints of the constitution.
“The significant body of medical people who have been very vocal on the issue, have expressed their concern about suicide being included.”
Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, which lasted for three hours and saw 20 people speak, was a very good meeting according to the first term TD. “At the end of the day this issue is bigger than a political party, it’s about people and the life of a mother and unborn child. We had a parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday which was very constructive and informative on the whole issue.
“I’m still considering the whole bill and we have a long way to go through the Oireachtas Committee, then the Dáil and the Seanad before it comes out the other side. There are a lot of experts and medical people who will be advising on it. Anything else would be presumptive without listening to all sides. I have a number of areas of concern that I will be raising with the Taoiseach and I’d hope to meet with him about them.”It was reported that in that Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on the proposed legislation, that John O’Mahony had become emotional and had to leave the room to compose himself, but that O’Mahony had said he wanted to ‘engage’ on the legislation.
O’Mahony was part of a 13-person cross-party, cross-border group of politicians who undertook a trip to the USA over the St Patrick’s weekend, which was paid for by the pro-life lobby group Family and Life. The group consisted of six Fine Gael TDs and senators, three Fianna Fáil senators, one independent TD and two MLPs, and one MP from northern Ireland.
Dep Mulherin, speaking on radio on Wednesday morning, the morning after the Heads of Bill emerged, said that she did still have concerns the legislation could lead to abortion on demand. “Of course this is a concern, that it may lead to abortion on demand,” she responded to a direct question. She also went on to say: “I’m not saying that it will, I’m saying it may.”
The Ballina based TD in outlining her concerns on the legislation said: “I think because of that, we need to give it due consideration. Because at the end of the day, I understand it from psychiatrists that if you tell me you’re suicidal, I can’t objectively prove that you’re not suicidal.” Fianna Fáil were to hold their own parliamentary party meeting yesterday evening to discuss the bill. However, at last weekend’s Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis the party passed a number of motions, reaffirming the party’s position as a pro-life party. One of the motions that was passed called for the opposition of legislation that includes the risk of suicide as a threat to mother’s life.