herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Kenny and Burton set to clash over abortion issue

IN IT TOGETHER: Joan and Enda have made a voting pact but Fine Gael is sure to get a bigger slice of the electoral cake
IN IT TOGETHER: Joan and Enda have made a voting pact but Fine Gael is sure to get a bigger slice of the electoral cake

TANAISTE Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are set to clash over removing the controversial Eighth Amendment from the Constitution as the general election campaign heats up.

Mr Kenny has insisted Fine Gael will have no commitment in its election manifesto to hold a referendum on the amendment that protects the rights of the unborn and prevents abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

However, a spokesman for the Tanaiste yesterday said the Labour Party’s position was “very clear” and it would pledge to have a referendum to remove the amendment in its manifesto.

In a further sign that it is likely to cause Coalition tension, a Labour cabinet minister yesterday said a referendum will be a “red line issue” when it comes to agreeing any future programme for government.

The senior minister said the vote transfer pact was “not contingent” on any policy agreement, but the members will insist on

a referendum being a “first order demand” ahead of any future Coalition talks.

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“The point is, if the membership are to go with the transfer plan they will have to be sure we will insist on the Eighth being repealed,” the minister said.

The issue is a likely to be a key discussion topic when Labour members gather in Glenview Hotel, Glen of the Downs, Wicklow for the party’s annual think-in.

The Tanaiste’s spokesman said removing the amendment was “not as simple an issue as simply removing the clause”.

He said the issues is being looked at by an internal Labour Party working group ahead of publishing its manifesto.

Another senior Labour source said it was “no surprise” that the Taoiseach ruled out having an abortion policy in his party’s election manifesto.

Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris said the situation facing women with unviable pregnancies was “extraordinarily difficult and unacceptable”.

“I think there is an onus on all politicians and everybody in society to be very clear on what they would like to replace the Eighth Amendment should it be repealed, and I think we need to address that issue responsibly,” he said.

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