Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Dáil Éireann Debate
The resultant details are highly disturbing, but people need to hear the reality of having this law in place. This woman had a ventilator inserted, a tracheostomy tube in her neck, and six syringe pumps for drugs to stop infections. Make-up was applied when her children came to visit to make her look something like she had been. It is all the more incredible that doctors felt they had to take this course of action when an accident and emergency and bed crisis was escalating around them. We ended up with legal representation for the unborn and a deceased woman, all because of the eighth amendment.
Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Is the Taoiseach willing to allow the Irish people the chance to remove a law which is the envy of religious fundamentalists around the world? Was he strutting and posing for liberty in Paris while maintaining women as vessels and incubators at home, alive or dead? Will the Taoiseach hold a raft of referendums in May while refusing to allow people to have their say on the eighth amendment? He said he does not have a mandate, but he can go and get one by having a referendum. There is no time impediment to his holding a referendum to see what the will of the people is at a particular time. That goes for the excuses of the Labour Party as well.
The Taoiseach: I was happy and privileged to represent the Irish people in Paris this week after an atrocity based on terror and fear. The demonstration of support by the ordinary citizens of France and the leadership of the European Union demonstrated the importance of why we have a European Union.
The case in Mullingar was sensitive. It was a personal case and was not a case of turning a blind eye to the situation. Deputy Coppinger should remember that Bunreacht na hÉireann is the people's book. It is they who put it together, they who vote on it and they who have the sole responsibility of changing it if they so desire. However, in this particular case the courts determined that the eighth amendment did not prevent the turning off of the life-sustaining equipment. It was not the case that the eighth amendment restricted the decision that had to be made.
Deputy Ruth Coppinger: I agree with the Taoiseach that the Constitution is in place. I am asking him to allow people to change it by holding a referendum, enabling them to overturn a decision that was taken 31 years ago at the behest of a Catholic lobby and nobody else. He said the eighth amendment did not prevent the life support from being turned off, but it is the reason doctors were fearful in the first place. The man sitting to the left of the Taoiseach talked about the chilling effect on doctors of the eighth amendment when he had knowledge of the case, and he was right. In the court case, doctors said, "We are unclear what to do in light of the eighth amendment." Dr. Peter Boylan, who is very authoritative and was used as a State witness in the case, said that repeal of the eighth amendment would be even more helpful than medical guidelines. The point about Paris was that the Taoiseach strutted and strolled up the Champs-Élysées with many other Western leaders, ostensibly against religious fundamentalism, while he is presiding at home over a host of laws, including one about blasphemy and one which is so anti-woman, medieval-----
My key point is that the Taoiseach will have the chance to resolve this issue in May. There is no impediment to the holding of a referendum on this in line with the referendums on marriage equality and other issues. Will the Taoiseach give time for this to be discussed in the Dáil in light of the tragedy which unfolded over Christmas, when a macabre ordeal was visited on the family concerned? What they were put through occurred, as all of the doctors testified, for constitutional reasons, because of the existence of the eighth amendment. Let people have their say. I say to the Labour Party: "Do not sit over this atrocity any longer." We cannot afford to have any more horrific cases coming to light of women being treated as vessels and incubators in this way.
The Taoiseach: Deputy Coppinger should bear in mind that the family involved requested privacy. She can understand they do not want this individual case discussed in the Dáil. I respect their request for privacy.
There are two referendums to be held in May, one on the question of the eligibility limit for the Presidency, which was a recommendation from the people's Constitutional Convention, and a second on the question of marriage equality, which was also a recommendation from the people's Constitutional Convention.
I do not know if Deputy Coppinger was actively involved in any of the campaigns in the 1980s when these amendments were considered previously. I have already said that there will not be another referendum during the lifetime of this Government.
The Taoiseach: This is a matter Deputy Coppinger can blithely say should be considered by way of referendum in May. I do not think she realises the scale of the challenge that would be involved. It is all too easy for her to say, "Remove the eighth amendment." I would like to hear her tell me what she proposes to replace it with.
Order of Business
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take No. 17, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the association agreements between the European Union and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, to be taken without debate; No. 38, statements regarding attacks in Paris; No. 39 , Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014 - Order for Report, Report and Final Stages; and No. 8, Customs Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that in the event a division is in progress at the time fixed for taking Private Members’ Business, the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and Private Members’ Business, which shall be No. 179, motion re hospital emergency departments, shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes, and shall also take place after the Order of Business tomorrow and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 90 minutes on that day; No. 17 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings in relation to No. 38 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 30 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, or a person nominated in their stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed five minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes. Tomorrow’s business after Oral Questions shall be No. 39, Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014 - Report and Final Stages (resumed).
An Ceann Comhairle: There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 17, motion re referral to select committee of proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of the terms of the association agreements between the European Union and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, to be taken without debate, agreed to? Agreed.
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