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Fine Gael struggles with a great issue of the day… November 29, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Uncategorized.

..to no clear effect. Fascinating how this is panning out in light of IELB’s thoughts here.

According to the Irish Times:

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton was the most senior critic of the Fine Gael leadership to speak out when party TDs and Senators were briefed on the expert group on abortion’s report.

Some will wonder about the numbers:

Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressed about 50 members of the parliamentary party. Backbenchers John O’Mahony, Terence Flanagan, Billy Timmins and James Bannon were among at least 12 members who spoke critically at the meeting.

There’s 74 odd FG members in the Dáil. 50 turn up. 12 express reservations, or more. For Creighton apparently FG have ‘no mandate’ to bringin in legislation. Well, not exactly… their 2011 Manifesto said the following:

European Court of Human Rights Judgement on Abortion: We will establish an all-party committee, with access to medical and legal expertise, to consider the implications of the recent ruling of the ECHR and to make recommendations. Such a process would, we believe, be the best way of examining the issues in a way that respects the range of sincerely-held views on this matter.

Deliberations conducted. Report written. Recommendations made. Time to deliver.

And what of the other areas that more acutely diverge from their election manifesto where policy implementation bears down upon an Irish citizenry and small complaint from Creighton there?

But the question is how many will jump ship if and when this comes to a vote. According to the IT others antagonistic to legislation did not arrive at the meeting. It’s hard to judge how much this is a phoney war where TDs, whether FG (or LP) will fall into line behind legislation on X or will make a break. Elsewhere the IT mentions expectations that perhaps 3 or 4 might bail. But, you know, it could be many more. And it’s not as if the LP is entirely as one on the issue either.

It’s a serious matter, but one has to smile on reading the following:

Other speakers complained that their votes were being taken for granted by the leadership. The Cabinet decision to opt for a preferred option before the end of December and implement that choice early in the new year was greeted with anger.
Many complained that the timeline was too tight.

Too tight? 20 years since X? Really?

Mind you, what a party, check this out:

There were a number of references to a “letter of comfort” distributed by the now Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan during the general election campaign when he was director of elections. The letter said Fine Gael was opposed to the legalisation of abortion.

And what of this from last night?

Enda Kenny last night told Fine Gael TDs and Senators “no one would be press-ganged” after a group complained they were being forced to move too quickly on abortion.

Mr Kenny told the parliamentary party meeting that he was personally “more conservative” than many of them. He said Fine Gael had always been “pro-life” and remained so, according to a number of those present.

And speaking of parties:

What to make of FF’s appeal to a ‘middle ground consensus’.

It will be most interesting to see where they think that middle ground actually is.

It has been absolutely essential hitherto that the trojan efforts of Joan Collins, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace – and let’s not forget those around them and those in various groups who have managed to in some ways inflect public opinion and who have worked tirelessly on the issue – pushing towards some form of legislative response were made, and entirely correct that that should be continued over the past few weeks and right up to last night. Otherwise it is entirely possible that the response to the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been more muted and less effective and that the focus on the legislature would be less clear. Moreover as noted in comments the presence of significant crowds outside the Dáil will not have gone unnoticed. But what’s depressing about this is that in some ways for any further progress at all on the central issue, however minimal, to some degree it is the FG parliamentary party, and FF and LP as well who are in the driving seat – and FG party discipline may be central to this. Perhaps in that light the protests are as important – if not in fact more so – now as they were before.

Speaking of which, as Wendy Lyon’s notes in comments:

Could I make a plug here for the National Day of Action in Galway on Saturday. Choice Ireland is subsidising a bus to it for €5 per person (leaving Parnell Square after 10.30 and returning at 8) – spaces can be reserved by emailing choiceireland at gmail dot com.


1. CL - November 29, 2012

Attorney in the ABC case writes:
‘In medicine there are rarely bright lines. There are, for instance, no guidelines for doctors on the distinction between a medical procedure necessary to preserve a woman’s life versus a procedure that would merely protect her health. Should a pregnant woman sit in a doctor’s office or a hospital bed waiting for her health to decline to the point where her doctor feels that an abortion is inarguably legal, at which point it may be too late?’-
The anti-abortion movement is international in scope. It would be useful if the connections between the F.G. troglodytes and other regressive forces could be traced.


Wendy Lyon - November 30, 2012

On that note, it seems those anti-abortion autocalls were international in scope too.


2. Mark P - November 29, 2012

It was interesting to hear that at the infamous FG parliamentary party meeting where Kenny addressed the troops on the for X issue and where Creighton et al did their complaining, more than twenty of their reps were missing.


3. sonofstan - November 29, 2012

‘Parliamentary Party’ usually means TDs and senators doesn’t it? which means there were more than 20 missing……


Mark P - November 29, 2012

I think that there may be 98 members of the FG PP, currently, counting the 4 MEPs but not that non-entity who lost the whip over something or other and whose name I can’t remember. If there were 50 there, that’s pretty much half who were not. And 12 of those 50 were spluttering and whining.

What the 48 no shows think may be of some interest.


Mark P - November 29, 2012

I’m also curious about the degree of opposition amongst Labour TDs. The Independent was claiming a week or two ago that 10 of them are opposed. They weren’t named and there’s no reason to take that sort of claim at face value, but there may be some there. That Shortall, who had already lost the whip, voted against legislating for X is indication of that.


Mark P - November 29, 2012

And Penrose of course doesn’t seem to have turned up, another “Labour” TD with a free vote.


sonofstan - November 29, 2012

Just for the record, the 7 extra who voted yes this time and were either missing in April or voted no were; 4 from SF (Pearse D., Caoimhghin Ó Caolain, Jonathan O’Brien and Sandra McLellan), Seamus Healy, Thomas Pringle, and Tommy Broughan (who voted no last time)


Mark P - November 29, 2012

Pearse Doherty is perhaps the most interesting name there, given his past support for the pro-life pledge. It’s also interesting that Broughan changed sides. Had he already lost the whip last time?


sonofstan - November 29, 2012

Yeah, Broughan lost the whip in Dec ’11.


Wendy Lyon - November 30, 2012

Shortall is personally very weak on abortion. She made this clear during the Labour leadership challenge that eventually put Rabbitte in charge. And I’ve been told that during the 2002 referendum campaign there was a curious absence of No posters in Penrose’s constituency.


WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2012

I heard about Shortall only last night in that regard. I can’t work out am I surprised or not.


sonofstan - November 29, 2012

Thinking about this – FG have 74 seats in the Dail, but only 10 seats at cabinet and 9 juniors ( I think): so slightly under 3/4 of their TDs are back benchers. Which has to be the highest proportion of any governing party in the history of the state. Recipe for disaffection and revolt, especially as we get nearer an election.


Mark P - November 29, 2012

Yes. It’s more often pointed out (correctly) that Labour TDs have a strong interest in picking something to rebel over, to escape the almost inevitable electoral cull.

But the FG leadership also has some tricky maneuvering to do because they simply can’t buy off disgruntled backbenchers with promises of promotion down the line or with constituency goodies. It’s not as difficult as Labour’s situation – with younger backbenchers seeing their careers doomed by older frontbenchers who know this is their last chance at power – but it’s still problematic.


sonofstan - November 29, 2012

Yes, the gerontocracy isn’t as pronounced in FG as in Labour, but equally there’s a fair few aul’ lads who know they’ll never get anywhere now, but don’t feel like retiring yet and need something to pick a fight over.


Jim Monaghan - February 11, 2013

I don’t think Labour backbenchers will pick on this. More likely a local hospital or garda station. Constituency issues a la Penrose. Likewose for FGers. Eg Hospital issue in Roscommon. And a lot of the surge for independents is around local issues. Plenty of opportunists as well as the left will pick on this


4. Shifting ground… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - December 7, 2012

[…] seems oddly nebulous given what they put before the people in their election manifesto – certainly nowhere near as binding as some might think,. Yet note that she appears to give equal weight to ‘those in his party who oppose legislation’ […]


5. It is interesting, it it not, to reflection… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - February 11, 2013

[…] might ask is it that a disproportionate number of FG TDs seemingly are more anti-abortion provision (at least rhetorically) than those they purport to […]


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