Four Irish politicians have had their party whip removed after defying their leader, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, to vote against a bill proposing a change in the country’s abortion law.
Terence Flanagan, Peter Matthews, Billy Timmins and Brian Walsh, all members of the governing Fine Gael party, voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill at its second stage, although it was passed by 138 votes to 24.
Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland but the Bill would allow abortions to take place where there is deemed to be a risk to the life of the mother, including if there is a threat of suicide.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said Fine Gael members who voted against the Bill would lose the party whip. According to reports, the four politicians have now been expelled from the party and told to vacate their offices.
Irish minister of state Lucinda Creighton voted for the bill, despite previously voicing her opposition. She said she hoped amendments would be made to the legislation at the committee stage, which began yesterday.
Catholic leaders have said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill could be the gateway to making widespread abortion legal in the Republic of Ireland. Just hours before the vote, Cardinal Seán Brady appealed to Fine Gael politicians to rebel against Mr Kenny.
“In practice, the right to life of the unborn child will no longer be treated as equal. The wording of this bill is so vague that ever wider access to abortion can be easily facilitated,” said Cardinal Brady.
“This bill represents a legislative and political Trojan horse which heralds a much more liberal and aggressive abortion regime in Ireland.”