Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore says the Church has "every right" to lobby politicians on abortion — and steadfastly refused to spell out his own party’s position on the issue.
The Labour leader, who in a 2007 interview said he was "pro-choice", stayed noticeably silent yesterday amid deepening signs of division in the Coalition on the issue.
Asked if Labour was a pro-choice party, he said the Government had set up an expert group due to report next month and a decision would be made when the report was filed.
Asked several times to spell out his party’s position, he said: "We’ll wait and we’ll see what the decision, or the recommendation, of the expert group is first… I think it is prudent that we await the report."
Labour’s longstanding position is that Ireland should legislate for the X case — but he refused to even reiterate this much yesterday.
The Government established the expert group to consider the ramifications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling. It found a woman’s rights had been breached due to Ireland’s failure to provide a regulatory or legislative procedure by which she could establish if she qualified for a lawful abortion here.
The Supreme Court had ruled in the 1992 X case that abortion was permissible in Ireland in cases where the mother’s life was at risk, including risk of suicide. However, successive governments failed to introduce legislation to clarify the instances where a life was deemed to be at risk, leading to the ECHR’s ruling.
On Sunday, Cardinal Seán Brady indicated the Church would oppose such legislation and lobby politicians on the issue. In response, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said he did not welcome the cardinal "promising to engage in the political campaign" and that it would be regressive step if there was a return to the Church dictating to politicians.
Asked if he agreed with his Labour colleague that the Church should refrain from lobbying politicians, Mr Gilmore said: "I think what he said was that we shouldn’t return to the situation in the past where the Church was dictating to the State. I agree with him on that, but of course, the Church and individual Church people as citizens have every right to lobby whoever they want to lobby."