The Government will today promise it will publish almost 30 new Bills between now and Easter including major legislation in the employment, enterprise and justice areas.

However, it was confirmed by the chief whip’s office last night that the list will not include a Bill on abortion – while a Heads of Bill (draft legislation) may materialise before the Easter break, the Bill is not now expected to be published until after Easter.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe will today announce the list of Bills to be published in this Dáil session. Almost one-third of the Bills are carry-overs from the session before Christmas, when 21 of the 31 Bills promised were published.

Some of the major Bills in the enterprise area will give effect to plans to rationalise and reduce the number of State agencies. Others will be included as part of the Government’s commitments under the bailout programme agreed with the troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

Among the major Bills to be published will be legislation to rationalise the existing commissions, authorities and courts that deal with industrial relations and equality at work into one all-encompassing agency.

Read full article by Harry McGee here

ABORTION REMAINS ONE of the most contentious and divisive issues in Irish society and at the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children this week it was no different.

Though three days of hearings on how the government should go about legislating for the X Case were calm, tolerant, informative, interesting and even revelatory in some parts there was no denying that there was some stark differences of opinion.

The committee, which based itself in the Seanad chamber for the three days, heard from medical and legal experts before advocacy groups and the churches came in to have their say on the government’s decision to legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case 20 years ago.

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SIXTY-FOUR PER cent of people in Ireland support legislating for the X Case on abortion at the very least, according to a poll conducted by Red C for Paddy Power bookmakers.

The poll, released this afternoon, has found that over a third of the electorate or 35 per cent support the government’s decision to legislate for the X Case allowing for abortion where the mother’s life is at risk, including by suicide.

A further 29 per cent support legalising abortion in Ireland to allow for abortion in any case where a woman requests it, a move that would require a constitutional amendment and therefore a referendum.

However the poll finds that one-in-four or 26 per cent want a constitutional amendment put in place to limit the X Case legislation by excluding the threat of suicide to the mother’s life as a reason for abortion.

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Pope Benedict XVI yesterday appeared to join in the Republic's controversial abortion debate when he expressed his 'dismay' at the proposed introduction of abortion legislation 'in various countries, even those of Christian tradition'.

The pontiff made his remarks during his annual keynote address to the Vatican's diplomatic corps, in which he touched on many of the world's most intractable problems.

These included the Syrian conflict, the need for Israelis and Palestinians to 'commit themselves to a peaceful co-existence', violence in sub-Saharan Africa and increasing inequality .

However, Irish antennae will pay particular attention to his remarks on abortion: 'I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalises abortion'.

Read full article by Paddy Agnew here

Doctors must not allow their personal moral standards to influence their treatment of pregnant women, Irish Medical Council president Prof Kieran Murphy has said.

Prof Murphy told the opening session of Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children hearing into abortion this morning that those with a conscientious objection to a course of action must explain this to patents and make the names of other doctors available to them.

"The right of conscientious objection must be balanced against the right of the patient, particularly in the case of a medical emergency," he added.

The committee has begun three days of hearings on the Government decision to legalise abortion in limited circumstances at some point next year. More than 40 witnesses and 20 groups will give evidence, among them medical and legal experts, the churches, civil society bodies, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups and politicians.

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The first step in the Government’s plans to draft abortion legislation will be taken next week when an Oireachtas committee hears evidence from interested legal and medical personnel, as well as religious representatives and groups advocating anti-abortion and pro-choice positions.

The health committee will sit over three days and hear from more than 40 witnesses in meetings in the chamber of Seanad Éireann which is currently in Christmas recess.

It will hear the views of experts and campaign groups on the decision taken by the Government before Christmas to legislate for the restricted introduction of abortion in Ireland, based on the finding of the Supreme Court in the X case in 1992.

Read full article by Harry McGee here

The wording of the 1983 “pro-life” amendment to the Constitution was hastily approved despite one attorney general labelling it a legal “time bomb” and another expressing doubts about its merits, newly released State papers show.

On November 2nd, 1982, two days before a vote of no confidence in the Dáil, which led to a general election the following month, the then Fianna Fáil government announced the wording of the anti-abortion amendment, which went on to be approved by the electorate.

This was despite the government being warned by attorney general Patrick Connolly SC that a “pro-life” amendment “might well have the effect of threatening the right of the mother” to have a life-saving operation.

Foreseeing some of the problems thrown up by the 1992 X case, Mr Connolly noted that, “whatever my personal views be”, a rape victim could not be exempted from any constitutional prohibition.

Nor, “in the current climate of what it is sought to achieve”, could the amendment exempt abortion where the mental health of a woman was at serious risk.

Read full article by JOE HUMPHREYS here

A LABOUR TD has said that Cardinal Seán Brady’s Christmas message ‘misrepresented’ the legal position within which the Oireachtas is required to legislate for abortion.

Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara expressed his “disappointment that Cardinal Brady took the opportunity of his Christmas message to again misrepresent the legal position within which the Oireachtas is required to legislate, as well as the proposed content of that legislation” this morning.

In his Christmas message yesterday, Cardinal Brady urged Irish people to protest against plans to legislate for abortion.

Read full article by Aoife Barry here
Some of the language used in the ongoing debate on abortion in the State is “disconcerting”, Minster of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch has said.

Ms Lynch said she found it “very worrying” to hear phrases such as “culture of death” being used by some of those who were opposing the Government’s plans to introduce legislation and regulations to allow limited abortion.

The Labour Party TD said there was a need to ensure there was a tolerance and acceptance of other views in the State.

Leo O’Reilly, the Bishop of Kilmore, said earlier this week that the Government proposals represented “the first step on the road to a culture of death”. He added that “once you say one human life can be directly destroyed, no human life is safe”.

His comments came after the Cabinet this week announced how it intended to respond to a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the abortion situation in Ireland. The Cabinet decided its preferred option was a combination of legislation and regulation that would give effect to the 1992 X case judgment. That judgment held that abortion was permissible where there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, as distinct to her health. Such a risk included the threat of suicide.

Ms Lynch said the church had a right and a duty to express its opinions on the subject but that some of the language that had been used was “unfortunate”.

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WHERE was Cardinal Sean Brady’s conscience when he helped hush-up the crimes of a child rapist?

It is a timely question, because he is now lecturing us on what our consciences should lead us to do. 

The statement he issued with the three other Catholic archbishops, in response to government plans to legislate for the X-Case ruling, is big on the concept of conscience — it is a shame the cardinal’s own conscience was lacking when he had abuse victims sign secrecy agreements, instead of speaking out and saving other children from being raped. 

Regarding the X-Case legislation, the archbishops’ statement says: "On a decision of such fundamental moral importance, every public representative is entitled to complete respect for the freedom of conscience. No one has the right to force or coerce someone to act against their conscience. Respect for this right is the very foundation of a free, civilised and democratic society." 

The dictionary definition of the word ‘conscience’ is: "The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one’s conduct, together with the urge to prefer right over wrong." 

In 1975, Cardinal Brady was part of team of clerics that interviewed a 14-year-old boy who had been abused for two years by the paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth. 

The boy told the panel about other victims of Smyth, yet he was sworn to secrecy. 

One of the other victims was interviewed by Brady. The boy’s parents were never told about the interview, nor about the abuse he suffered. 

Full article by Shaun Connolly here