herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

TDs should be allowed to keep views on abortion private, claims Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney
Minister Simon Coveney

Fine Gael minister Simon Coveney does not believe politicians should have to state their position on abortion during the general election campaign.

Mr Coveney said that if returned to government, Fine Gael will examine the issue of the Eighth Amendment in a "careful and sensitive fashion".

But he added that the choices facing legislators in relation to this area are "personal and diffi- cult", and there should be no obligation on TDs and senators to state how they intend to vote.

The issue of a repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn, was put back on the political agenda last month by Children's Minister James Reilly.

In a move that sparked a backlash from many within Fine Gael, Dr Reilly called for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment during the next term of government.

Only days after his intervention, Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged to set up a Citizen's Convention to examine the issue. He also confirmed that Fine Gael TDs and senators will be given a free vote on any future changes to abortion laws.

In the Dail last week, Independent TD John Halligan said he believed it is important that election candidates state their positions during the campaign.

But speaking yesterday on RTE's The Week in Politics, Agriculture Minister Mr Cove-ney said he disagreed with that stance.

"These are very personal and difficult choices and decisions that people have to make," he said. "I think the Taoiseach has given a commitment that if we are in government after the next election, we will look at this issue and give it the sensitivity it deserves.

Blunt

"I think to break it down into a single blunt question of are you in favour or aren't you of repealing the Eighth, I don't think gives this discussion the kind of sensitivity it needs.

"The problem with this issue is unless you know what the Eighth Amendment will be replaced with, this is a debate that is half-informed."

Speaking on the same programme, Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said voters have an entitlement to ask politicians their views on all issues.

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