An Bille um an Ochtú Leasú ar an mBunreacht, 1982: An Dara Céim (Atógáil) . Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1982: Second Stage (Resumed) .

Thursday, 24 March 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 341 No. 5

First Page Previous Page Page of 65 Next Page Last Page

Atógadh an díospóireacht ar leasú Uimh. 1:

Go scriosfar na focail go léir i ndiaidh “Go” agus go gcuirfear an méid seo a leanas ina n-ionad:

“ndiúltaíonn Dáil Éireann an dara léamh a thabhairt don Bhille go dtí go [772] bhfaighidh sí tuarascáil ar an mBille ó Chomhchoiste den Dáil agus den Seanad ag a mbeidh cumhacht fios a chur ar dhaoine, ar pháipéir agus ar thaifid.”

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until it receives a report on the Bill from a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad, having powers to send for persons, papers and records.”

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy Morley was in possession.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : There was an agreement between the Whips and I was told that at 10.30 a.m. sharp I would be called to speak. It now looks as it there is some arrangement to ensure that I will not be allowed to contribute to this important debate.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  : I would like to assure Deputy Flanagan that we will give him ten minutes of our time for the ten minutes he has lost.

Mr. Morley: Information on Patrick J. Morley  Zoom on Patrick J. Morley  : When I last spoke I welcomed this Bill and also the Taoiseach's statement to the House that the alternative wording would be ready in a couple of weeks' time. I expressed regret that the back-pedalling of the Taoiseach and the Government on the original agreed wording was causing and had caused distress and concern to very many people interested in this amendment. I had hoped at the time that the new wording when introduced by the Government would not only show the Government's undiminished commitment to the amendment itself but would also maintain the strong pro-life character of the original draft. This was not to be and now that the new wording is available we can see that it is negative in character and has lost the strong pro-life commitment of the original. The Taoiseach himself over [773] the weekend admitted that he was less than happy about the commitment he had given to this amendment in the first place. This perhaps explains the watering down of the original draft as is evidenced in the new formula and it confirms my worst fears, publicly expressed some weeks ago, that when the crunch came the Taoiseach and the majority of his party would bend with the liberal wing. I find the new wording totally unacceptable and so I understand do many individuals and groups interested in making this amendment to our Constitution.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Order, please. Deputies should not indulge in conversation.

Mr. Morley: Information on Patrick J. Morley  Zoom on Patrick J. Morley  : We are seeking merely to enshrine in the Constitution the protection and right to life of the unborn child, in the recognition that it too from the moment of conception is human life, that the Constitution already gives to the citizen. It is a pity the Government did not adhere to the original formula. The new wording has only added to the divisions and confusion and regrettably the anti-amendment lobby are already claiming the new wording as a victory for themselves.

It is difficult to understand the motivation of many people and organisations involved in the anti-amendment campaign. I realise that many so involved are motivated by genuinely felt but nevertheless groundless fears on sectarian and medical grounds, but I fear that there are many involved in the campaign for more sinister and selfish motives. They see in this amendment a formidable if not insurmountable barrier to the introduction of legalised abortion in this country and such a barrier would not be welcomed by them.

I totally reject the charge that the Bill is sectarian. This Bill deals with the most basic and fundamental of rights — the right to life itself — from which follow all other rights. It transcends religion, race, class, boundary, culture and is equally important and valid for members of particular religions and people with no religion whatever. I fail to see how a charge [774] of sectarian bias can be sustained. I do not accept that it will in any way interfere with or inhibit current medical practices and procedures in treating any problems, however serious, that may arise in maternity or pregnancy cases. Many eminent medical experts bear out this view.

I agree that being anti-amendment is not necessarily being pro-abortion, but I do not think that preoccupation with this aspect of the debate should cloud the need that exists at this time for this amendment in order to protect the life of the unborn child who, not being a citizen, is not so protected in the Constitution as it stands. People say that existing legislation is sufficient and quote the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act but the experience of other countries shows that this is not so. Existing legislation could be declared in a future court to be unconstitutional or could be amended and so leave the unborn vulnerable to assault and this would mean virtually abortion on demand. The wording proposed now would appear to preclude the courts from making such a decision but would still leave the road open to the Legislature to introduce such legislation and so I find it at best a half-hearted measure. I believe the mass of the people valuing human life and concerned for the protection of that life have a democratic right to seek this amendment to our Constitution and the Government have an obligation to respond positively to that demand. The referendum that would be involved is one of the most basic and clearest exercises of the democratic process and I regret that the response of the Government to this demand has been half-hearted and that the decision as to whether abortion should or should not be introduced has not been left solely with the people.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : I want to join with other Deputies who have expressed the opinion that this legislation is vital. This is constitutional legislation and I cannot understand the haste. Members of this House should have an opportunity of fully debating every aspect of this vitally important constitutional amendment. I must refer to the grave responsibility that rests on every Member of this Parliament. [775] Each of us has a conscience and we must bear full responsibility in the area of legislating for public morality. We must be concerned about the quality of Irish life that we wish to pass on to those who will come after us. It has been said that we cannot legislate for virtue but that we can legislate for non virtue by way of creating conditions and trends whereby the struggle to be virtuous is rendered very difficult. That is why a Christian cannot escape from the obligation to strive to influence legislation in a Christian direction. To say that the State has no responsibility for public morals is to imply that the State has no duty in the areas of justice, honesty, equality and truth. It is to say that the State is beyond moral judgment. Surely everyone of us here knows that there is a grave responsibility on the part of the State in regard to the whole question of public morality. Abortion is nothing less than murder, but it is a practice that is growing steadily in various parts of the world. We in Ireland have an opportunity to display to the rest of the world our total concern for the protection of the unborn. There are differing opinions among some of the Protestant churches and within the Roman Catholic Church, too, as to when life begins. Let there be no doubt about this. Life begins immediately on conception and it does not end at death. Life is created for all time and nobody has a right to take it away.

Any amendment to Article 41 of the Constitution which would deny the right to life of the unborn from the moment of conception would be gravely wrong. I am only putting forward the teachings of the Church to which I belong. If I need guidance on matters of public morality I seek if from those who are qualified to give it. Either the present Attorney General or any other holder of that office would be the last person that I would go to if I needed such guidance. I would reject any law that would permit abortion in cases of rape or of deformity of the unborn or that would deny the equal right to life of both the child and the mother.

I was present when discussions were taking place between the Taoiseach and [776] the pro-life people before the last general election. In the course of those discussions I had grave doubts about a Coalition Government introducing a total ban on abortion. That may have been because I know the people concerned, because I know their thinking and because I know some of their backgrounds. For that reason, in the presence of Mr. Brendan Shortall, Dr. Vaughan and the other pro-life people, I asked the Taoiseach, as I held this Bill in my hand, if we could go to the people in the general election in the belief that we were pledging our full support to those who were anxious that this legislation be enacted. The Taoiseach appeared angry that anyone should cast doubts on his sincerity in regard to implementing in full the terms of the Bill. In the agreed Programme for Government between Fine Gael and Labour it was stated that legislation would be introduced to have adopted by 31 March 1983 the pro-life amendment proposed by the outgoing Government. The Labour Party reserve the right to a free vote on this issue. We appreciate their position and we must appreciate also the position of the Minister for Health who, because of the strong feelings he holds in relation to the amendment, refused to handle the Bill with the result that it was passed to the Minister for Justice. I admire the Minister for Health for the stand he took. He showed a certain amount of principle and made it clear that since he did not believe in the Bill he would not handle it. I regret to say that what has been happening in Ireland in recent years is the emergence of too many ventriloquist Deputies. We all know that when the dummy sits on the knee of the ventriloquist he utters only what the ventriloquist wishes him to utter. There is a ray of hope in that we are not all political ventriloquists because the day the country is ruined by political ventriloquists is the day we are doomed.

Deputies:  : Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : The Tánaiste indicated that he did not intend to support the amendment, while the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism said [777] that regardless of what wording was used he would be against it. These people, as well as the Minister for Health, are showing their true colours, but it is a different matter that others are masquerading. That is the most dangerous of all.

Deputies:  : Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : These people say that they are against abortion. They raise their nostrils at mention of the word, but yet they do not wish this amendment to be written into our laws. They are not prepared to advocate abortion publicly but the story is different when they are behind closed doors. Why not speak one's mind when the country is in need of leadership on the question of public morality.

I quote from paragraph 23 of Humanae Vitae which addresses rulers of nations:

And so we would like to speak to Rulers of Nations, because to them most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good, and they can contribute so much to the preservation of morals.

Do not ever allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. Do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family practices which are opposed to the natural and divine law — for the family is the primary unit in the State.

I accept Humanae Vitae wholeheartedly, as do many others.

The text of the pro-life Amendment to the Constitution was published in the newspapers of 3 November 1982.

The State acknowledges the right of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right of the mother, guarantees in its law to respect and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

The Catholic Episcopal Conference, the Irish Bishops, in a statement on the Bill said:

In view of the clear teaching of the Catholic Church—

[778] That is the Church that I go to to find out where I should go in regard to public morality as a Member of this House: I do not go to the Attorney General because he is the last person in the world I would select to go to for advice or guidance in that direction. I do not go to Dean Griffin because God knows the North of Ireland has one Paisley and that is enough without another coming down to the South.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : That is not relevant.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : It is entirely relevant.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : I object to that statement by the Deputy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Deputy should not refer to persons outside the House who do not have an opportunity of answering, in particular it is not in order for the Deputy to refer to distinguished churchmen.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : Surely it is in order that I should be allowed to refer to the anti-amendment people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : That is another matter.

Mr. O.J. Flanaghan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : The Very Reverend Dean Griffin, Bernadette McAliskey and others——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I should like to ask the Deputy, on reflection, to withdraw the reference to the name of Dean Griffin.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : If I do, I will have to withdraw also the Right to Choose Group, the Democratic Socialist Party, Bernadette McAliskey, Jim Kemmy and all those other people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I should like to ask the Deputy to think about the matter. I am asking him on reflection to withdraw [779] his particular reference and the way in which he referred to Dean Griffin.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : If the Chair wants it that way. I want to place on record——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am taking it that the Deputy is withdrawing this statement?

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : Yes, in view of the Chair's request but it does not alter the fact that he was——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I do not want to encroach on the Deputy's time but I have asked him for an unqualified withdrawal of his reference to Dean Griffin and I am taking that.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : Yes. The Catholic Episcopal Conference, in the course of a statement on 3 November 1982, said:

In view of the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life, the bishops willingly support measures which give to the life of the unborn child, as to every other life, the full protection of the law. While no constitutional provision can of itself, be a full response to the problem of abortion, the text of the proposed amendment does seem to contribute positively to safeguarding the right to life of the unborn and as such it is welcome.

In view of that statement, and of my own belief that abortion is wrong, that it is murder and that any country that adopts abortion is adopting degrees of murder I am opposed to abortion. Any country that is prepared to adopt abortion cannot be far away, no less than between 50 or 80 years away from euthanasia.

These matters are before us for our serious reflection. Any Bill passed here must acknowledge and protect the right to life of the unborn. I should like to tell the Minister for Justice that if he is going to have the word “abortion” mentioned in the Constitution he cannot define it properly. How will the Constitution define what is or is not abortion? That is why I believe that the new wording as [780] published in the newspapers is not in accordance with the undertaking given to the pro-life group. It is not in accordance with the statement of 3 November by the Catholic Episcopal Conference and it is not in accordance with the undertaking given by the Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald and his colleagues — I was one — to the Pro-Life group before the general election. Any Bill we pass must prevent the introduction of abortion either through the courts or the Oireachtas. How foolish it would be to have an amendment passed which would prevent the Supreme Court from dealing with the question of abortion but would permit Parliament to introduce abortion legislation? What happens in the case of a hung Dáil or if the majority of the elected representatives believe that the murder of the unborn should be legalised?

My idea is that only the Irish people, through a referendum, can deal with a problem of this type. This is a serious matter which deals with the vital and important matter of creation. An amendment which does not include an acknowledgment and protection of the right to life of the unborn would be inconsistent with the idea of a positively expressed pro-life amendment as advocated by Fine Gael and many others. Furthermore, no amendment would be proof against a decision of the European Court of Human Rights unless it specified the right to life in positive terms. Those terms should be clearly set out.

Fine Gael in their election programme of June 1981 stated:

Fine Gael is unalterably opposed to the legalisation of abortion and in Government will initiate a referendum to guarantee the right to life of the unborn child.

That could not be clearer and it is something I conducted an election on. It is what I promised the people and what every Member of Fine Gael pledged themselves to in that election. Are they going to welsh on it? Are they going to go back a bit on that pledge? Are they going to bury their heads in the sand?

The Taoiseach, Deputy FitzGerald, [781] when he was speaking on “Today Tonight” on 4 November 1982, said:

What we have proposed, and I pressed this very strongly in my Ard Fheis speech, was that it should be literally a pro-life amendment, which would strengthen the protection of life, the life of the unborn, and I was very relieved that the amendment took that form.

The Minister for Justice stated that the object is to ensure that what is commonly called legalised abortion does not become a feature of our law and our society against the wishes of the people. He also said it is entirely appropriate that such a basic right as the right to life of the unborn should be mentioned in the Constitution. The reports I read in today's papers contain no mention of the right to life of the unborn. I am waiting for the Minister to announce the proposed wording, although the Taoiseach has confirmed that the newspaper reports are correct. There is no way I will vote in this House for the wording mentioned on the radio broadcasts this morning because it is contrary to my conscience, contrary to my religious beliefs and contrary to the beliefs of the church of which I hope I am a member. That is why I will not vote for this new presentation, the U-turn presentation.

When the Attorney-General examined this Bill he told the Fine Gael Party that it was right and that there were no problems in it. What has happened suddenly to change the mind of the Attorney General? He has done a U-turn on this matter. It makes me wonder about the person who can give advice on a subject today and different advice on the same subject another day. What will the position be on many other grave legal problems? Most of us have a legal adviser but what do we do when that adviser changes his advice from day to day? It is a very serious matter.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  : On a point of order, is it correct within the procedures of this House for a Member to cast doubts on the integrity of the Attorney General, the highest law officer of the State, who [782] does not have an opportunity to defend himself?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Personal or professional reflections should not be cast on the Attorney General, who is not a Member of the House.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : It is very difficult to know what way I can deal with the advice which has been given to my party, in view of your ruling. Which advice are we to take? The Bill has not changed, and if it was right when the Attorney General first advised on it, what has happened to change his mind? If I had a solicitor who advised me in that way I would fire him.

This amendment should be put to the people so that they will be given an opportunity to decide in the right way on the proper wording. We were told that the wording of this amendment could be improved, but I challenge any Member to endeavour to convince me that what has now come forth is an improvement on what was already approved by the churches, including churches other than the Catholic Church. The new wording is not an improvement. It leaves it open to a hung Dáil to pass legislation introducing abortion. How many Members on this side of the House are prepared to take that chance? I am not.

I am answerable to the people who elected me whom I promised to safeguard and protect the life of the unborn. I will not welsh or renege on that promise even if I am to be alone. I will stand up to defend the life of the unborn. I do so as a public representative with the grave responsibility of contributing to public morality to the best of my ability as a Member of Parliament. I want this to go on record so that every member of my party will know where I stand. There is no way in which I will vote for the right of a Parliament to introduce abortion. It is all the same to me who brings in the Bill; I am only concerned with the principle of the Bill and with safeguarding the life of the unborn. To play politics with an issue of this kind is bringing us to very low depths.

I had been hoping that this issue would [783] have been faced up to in a manner in which anyone in favour of abortion would be on one side and anyone against abortion would be on the other. It should be left to the people to decide. Anybody who believes that abortion is a human right should stand on a platform and publicly advocate it. Such a person should not be like a Lanna Machree's dog which went a little bit of the road with everybody but the whole of the road with nobody. That is the way to get the worst of all possible results.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  : Hear, hear.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : People must have the courage to come out and advocate what they believe in. I firmly believe in the teaching of the Catholic Church on the right to life, when life begins and that there is no end to life. That is the belief I profess every day when I say the creed. I often wonder about the opinions of men in public life who must be disturbed in conscience. It is outstanding to have a clear conscience in public life. I have served my constituents for 40 years. I have never let them down, never betrayed them and never told them untruths. That is how I have been here for 40 years. I will not let them down on this issue. I promised them that I would stand by the right to life of the unborn and I will stand faithful to the end, guided by the Irish Episcopal Conference. I hope and trust I will not be alone in Fine Gael when the chips are down, because we have a grave responsibility for the quality of life in this country.

I will not support any form of amendment to Article 41 of Bunreacht na hÉireann which denies the right to life of the unborn from conception. This new proposal does not contain that feature if it permits abortion in instances of rape, deformity of the unborn or denies the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother. The life of the unborn in the eyes of the creator is as important as the life of the mother. We must protect the life of both with no preference either for mother or unborn because one life is the same as the other. It is the protection of [784] life. That is why I feel it is very necessary, apart from political considerations, as a matter of principle, that life, which is the greatest God given right, the right to be born and the right to life, be contained in the amendment. I want, because of the agreement which has been reached to ensure——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I understand the Leader of the Opposition has 10 minutes.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : I do not want to trespass on the time of the Leader of the Opposition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The only order of the House I have is to call on the Minister at 11.30.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  : It is a pity my speech has been restricted. I would have liked to go on much longer. Everybody in the House knows where I stand in relation to this matter, where I stand in relation to my constituents, with the Pro-Life people and with the episcopal conference who have given their support to the Bill and who, so far, have not commented on the new wording because they could not possibly do so since it was only issued in the early hours of this morning.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : Can I move the amendment which is down on the Order Paper for the last six weeks. It is in my name and the name of our party.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am calling on Deputy Haughey because I understand there is an arrangement about which I was not aware.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : I claim the right to speak on my amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I must say I consider it would be reasonable to call on Deputy Mac Giolla because he has an amendment down.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  : We have a very clear agreement with the Government. I am only asking for 10 minutes which is not [785] much for the Leader of the Opposition on a major constitutional matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I take the amendment as moved by Deputy Mac Giolla and I call on the Leader of the Opposition for five minutes.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : Can I appeal to the Taoiseach to allow time for both of us?

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  : I must say at the outset that this side of the House are, to say the least of it, astonished at the form of words which the Government have brought forward in substitution for our own. I will very quickly read the words which are in the Bill, a Bill put before the House by the Government and, therefore, presumably supported by the Government and debated on that basis by us all. The wording in the Bill states:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

That is a very clear and positive pro-life amendment. The wording now being suggested to us by the Government and the Taoiseach is:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be invoked to invalidate any provision of a law on the ground that it prohibits abortion.

As far as we are concerned that is totally unacceptable because it is entirely negative. It is not pro-life.

In effect, all this states is that the 1861 Act shall not be found unconstitutional by the courts. Everybody in the House should understand that if the amendment proposed by the Government is included in the Constitution, it is no bar to the introduction of legalised abortion into this country. There will be nothing to prevent the Oireachtas, the day after that constitutional amendment is made, repealing the 1861 Act and leaving the whole situation wide open and having no protection whatever for the life of the unborn, having no law whatsoever [786] against legalised abortion. Furthermore, if that amendment is passed there will be nothing to prevent any Oireachtas at any time introducing into the country full legalised abortion on demand. For this simple reason and for many others we find this wording totally inadequate and unacceptable.

At this stage, as far as we are concerned, as no better wording than ours has been brought forward by anybody, Fianna Fáil propose to stick with the wording we put forward which is included in the Bill before the House. I must ask the House to consider the position of the Taoiseach in regard to this matter. I want to quote a letter which he signed on 6 November 1982 and sent to Dr. Vaughan of the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign. He stated in that letter:

I have pleasure in enclosing a copy of the statement which was issued as a result of a unanimous decision of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party following the publication of the draft amendment. As you will see we are committed to introducing this amendment in Government and having it put to the people in a referendum before 31 March next. This referendum will not be delayed by any other consideration. This is an integral part of our programme and will be undertaken by any Government that I may have the responsibility of leading after the next General Election.

The statement to which he refers is as follows:

The Fine Gael Party welcomes the form of the amendment to the Constitution proposed by the Government.

The amendment as proposed is worded in positive terms, designed to strengthen the constitutional protection of life, as proposed by the leader of Fine Gael in his Ard Fheis speech.

At its meeting today the Fine Gael Party decided to support the amendment and in Government to initiate legislation with a view to a referendum to be held by the end of March next.

There are countless quotations I could give which firmly commit the Taoiseach [787] as Leader of the Opposition and as Taoiseach to a pro-life amendment, to including in our Constitution, a positive protection for the unborn. I want to say very solemnly to the House that the Taoiseach is totally reneging on all those commitments and, by putting this amendment forward in substitution for the Fianna Fáil amendment, he is forever destroying his credibility as a political leader.

I find it very difficult to understand how the Taoiseach can remain on as leader of Fine Gael and as Taoiseach and at the same time propose this amendment to us as the amendment to be made to the Constitution. It is completely in contradiction of everything he has said, promised and committed himself to. Our time is very limited and I am grateful to you for giving me those few moments. I want to avail of them again to say that Fianna Fáil are totally committed to the pro-life concept, to making an amendment to the Constitution which will positively protect the life of the unborn and ensuring that legalised abortion will not be introduced into this country except at some future date by a decision of the people as a whole by way of referendum.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : We moved an amendment to the amendment before the House and I understand the mover of an amendment is entitled to reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : No, that is not so.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : Not so? I understood a Member moving an amendment could reserve his contribution to the debate until later. I understood the mover had the right of reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am bound by the order of the House to call now upon the Minister.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : An arrangement has been entered into apparently by the Whips and we are thereby being denied our right to reply to an amendment tabled and moved.

[788]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The debate has been restricted by an order of the House here this morning.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : I sought to have that order changed and I was also refused permission to do that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Deputy could have pressed that to a vote.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : I was on my feet before ever the Taoiseach agreed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy, I am bound by the order of the House and I am calling now on the Minister to conclude.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : Would the Minister reply to the amendment we have moved when he winds up?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am bound by an order of the House and I must call on the Minister to reply.

Mr. Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  : I am appealing directly to the Minister. Would he allow me time?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The Minister is also bound by the order of the House. The Minister to conclude.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  , Limerick East): We have had a long and thorough debate on this amendment and I would like to thank all the Deputies who have contributed for the high and generally constructive level of the debate.

When I introduced the Bill in this House I spoke of the difficulties in producing a text that would adequately protect the life of the unborn and at the same time not be open to the reservations that have been expressed about the present text. I acknowledged the difficulties the previous Government must have had in producing that text. Everything that has happened since has borne out what I said then.

I have considered, in consultation with my colleagues in the Government, many [789] different approaches to an alternative text. At one stage, very recently indeed, I was myself disposed to favour a particular line of approach to the problem, an approach that I thought would be comprehensive while at the same time meeting some at least of the misgivings expressed in relation to the present text. I was authorised to engage in consultations with the various Churches and the Jewish Community on the basis of key words and phrases that would be used in the text and the general structure that might be adopted. May I say, for the record, that I deliberately did not work out a complete text, not only because of the need for flexibility in the consultations but in recognition of the privileges of this House. I cannot give details of these consultations because they were carried out on the basis that they would remain confidential but I think I can say, without any breach of confidence, that there was not sufficient support forthcoming for that approach to make it in any way viable. The outcome was a source of great disappointment to me. I say this now, not to criticise anybody for I know that everybody concerned has acted in good faith and from the best of motives but, at least in large part, because the fact that I had these consultations is now widely known and it would be both unreal and unfair to the House if I did not formally tell the House that they had taken place.

It has been said, in support of the existing wording, that it was considered very fully and that consultations had taken place about it with the various Churches. I do not question that. The problem, though, is these statements have tended to be made in a way that suggests that I knew or should have known about the background and that the reservations that I expressed about the present wording were ill-considered and in some way unfair to the Opposition. Again, I want the record to be clear about this. Anybody who listened to or read my opening speech will realise that what I said about the existing wording was very muted. Furthermore it was said, as it had to be, without the benefit of knowing what the former Government had actually done. [790] There were no papers to indicate the nature of the consultations that had taken place before the present text was approved. Neither was there any record of any analysis of the considerations that had led to the adoption of the particular text.

May I make it clear that in saying this I am not implying that the previous Government did not have consultations — I know now that they did — and I am not criticising the form that these consultations took, for that was a matter for the then Government to decide and, besides, the consultation may have been carried out in the most effective way. The only point I am making is that I did not have the benefit of any documentation on these issues and that such documentation as was available, while very useful as far as it went, was very limited indeed.

In the aftermath of my Second Reading speech there were accusations that the doubts I expressed about certain aspects of the wording were not genuine. That kind of accusation was persisted in to the point that we in Government, and especially my party colleagues who had a commitment to a referendum, felt it necessary to publish the relevant parts of a detailed memorandum of advice from the Attorney General.

I would like it to be clear that I am not suggesting that Members of this House are bound to accept the views of the Attorney General or indeed of any legal adviser. Lawyers, even at the very highest level, sometimes differ in their legal opinions. But, to put it at its very lowest, the Attorney General's detailed arguments, both on their own merits and because they came from a lawyer of his standing, must in ordinary prudence be taken very seriously into account by Members of this House, and it goes without saying that they must weigh heavily with members of the Government. If this House were to disregard them, it should at the very least be clearly aware of what it was doing.

Having said that much, I do not propose to weary the House with a great amount of detail. There can be no Member of the House who is not aware of the developments over the last 24 hours. The [791] difficulties that we have experienced in securing our objectives can be summarised this way. We felt it necessary to seek an improved wording, something that would meet at least in significant part the criticism made by the Attorney General of the present wording and that would also meet some of the other criticisms that have been made. I personally believe that that was achieveable. But, in the context of a Bill for a referendum, that is not enough. One must also be able to be reasonably satisfied that a particular solution would be likely to command substantial support on Referendum Day.

The reactions I got were not sufficiently positive to reassure me on that score. It was against that background that, as is now well known, my parliamentary party colleagues met last evening and discussed a number of options. The decision was that I should indicate to this House that, in view of the difficulties that had arisen, I would propose on Committee Stage a new wording on the following lines:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be invoked to invalidate any provision of a law on the ground that it prohibits abortion.

The first thing I want to say about this text is that its underlying principle is in accord with that underlying the present text. It is aimed at confirming that the Supreme Court cannot declare the present law, or any law, prohibiting abortion to be repugnant to the Constitution; and it confirms, by essential implication, that there is not conferred by the Constitution a right to have an abortion.

This alternative wording would meet what I think is a main object of the constitutional amendment, that is, that the Constitution as it stands would not be interpreted as meaning that it gives what would amount to a right to have an abortion.

The text would also permit the existing law, which is widely regarded as satisfactory, to be maintained. I am not saying of course that this text is not open to be criticised. It does leave open the possibility, however remote that may be, that [792] one day in the distant future the Oireachtas could without reference to the people pass a measure which would permit abortions to be carried out. One answer to that is that those Members of this House who would vote for such a measure would have to face the people at the following general election. The text has the great advantage that, apart from that gap, which in reality is I believe a theoretical rather than a real one, a number of other disadvantages associated with other alternatives are surmounted.

It is obvious from what I have just said that I am well aware of the fact that, in so far as the wording I have now mentioned would deal only with the possibility of an adverse court decision, it does not cover all the ground which the existing wording attempted to cover. But it certainly covers, very clearly and without any attendant disadvantages that I can see, the risk which was at the heart of the case made at the outset by PLAC and others. It is, therefore, as I have said, fully in accord with what is proposed in the Bill before the House. Every Deputy who can support such a wording, as well of course as those Deputies who would prefer the existing wording or some variation of it, can, I suggest, fully support the motion before the House that the Bill be given a Second Reading. On that point, I repeat what I said in my opening speech, namely, that approval of the Second Reading is not approval of any specific wording.

I therefore commend the motion to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : The question is, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the main question.”

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  : Is it not on the Second Stage?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : There is an amendment.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey  Zoom on Charles J. Haughey  : The Workers' Party amendment?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Yes. I am putting the question.

[793]Mr. Taylor: Information on Mervyn Taylor  Zoom on Mervyn Taylor  : On a point of order, was that amendment moved?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Yes.

Question Put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the main question.”

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : In order to clarify the position and to avoid confusion, I wish to explain that an amendment has been put down and properly moved to the Second Reading by Deputies Mac Giolla and De Rossa. It is amendment No. 1 and it reads as follows:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until it receives a report on the Bill from a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad, having powers to send for persons, papers and records.

The question to deal with that amendment will be as follows: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand part of the main question”. On that question, a division [794] has been challenged. I should also explain further that if this question is decided in the affirmative the Bill will, in accordance with Standing Order 89 (2), be declared to be read a Second Time forthwith.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  : On a point of order——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Does your point of order relate to the question?

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  : Yes.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. P. Barry): Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  : Does it not require ten people to stand in their places?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : No. This division was challenged by, among other people, the Labour Party Whip.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  : My point relates to the putting of the question. My position is——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I am sorry, I cannot allow the Deputy to make a speech.

Question put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Michael.
Allen, Bernard.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Michael.
Barrett, Seán.
Barry, Peter.
Begley, Michael.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Paudge.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Liam.
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Byrne, Seán. [795]Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Fahey, Francis.
Fahey, Jackie.
Farrelly, John V.
Faulkner, Pádraig.
Fennell, Nuala.
FitzGerald, Garrett.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzsimons, Jim.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Foley, Denis.
Gallagher, Denis.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Glenn, Alice.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harney, Mary.
Harte, Patrick D.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hegarty, Paddy.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hussey, Gemma.
Hyland, Liam.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Keating, Michael.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
McCarthy, Seán.
McCartin, Joe.
McCarthy, Charlie.
McEllistrim, Tom.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
McLoughlin, Frank.
MacSharry, Ray.
Manning, Maurice.
Calleary, Seán.
Carey, Donal.
Colley, George.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connolly, Ger.
Coogan, Fintan.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Coveney, Hugh.
Cowen, Bernard.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran.
Crowley, Frank.
Daly, Brendan.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Doherty, Seán.
Donnellan, John.
Dowling, Dick.
Doyle, Avril.
Doyle, Joe. [796]Mitchell, Gay.
Molloy, Robert.
Molony, David.
Morley, P.J.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Naughten, Liam.
Nealon, Ted.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael.
(Limerick East).
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West)
O'Brien Fergus.
O'Brien, Willie.
O'Dea, William.
O'Donnell, Tom.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Edmond.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
Ormonde, Donal.
O'Rourke, Mary.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Power, Paddy.
Prendergast, Frank.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, John.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Skelly, Liam.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
Timmons, Godfrey.
Treacy, Noel.
Treacy, Seán.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Walsh, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.
Yates, Ivan.


Bermingham, Joe.
Cluskey, Frank.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Desmond, Barry.
Desmond, Eileen.
Gregory-Independent, Tony.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Spring, Dick.
Taylor, Mervyn.

Question declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : In accordance with Standing Order 89(2), the Bill is hereby declared read a Second Time.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): Subject to the agreement of the Whips, it is proposed [797] to take Committee Stage on Tuesday, 19 April 1983.


Last Updated: 14/09/2010 10:19:39 First Page Previous Page Page of 65 Next Page Last Page