Health Minister denies Government split on abortion issue

Health Minister James Reilly has today insisted that there is no split within the coalition over pressure to legislate for abortion in the wake of Savita Halappanavar’s death.

The senior Fine Gael Minister said he wanted to consult with Ms Halappanavar’s family before signing off on terms of reference for a Health Services Executive (HSE) inquiry into the tragedy.

Separately, he is to bring a report to the Cabinet next week by an expert group on abortion which was set up to help the Government respond to a European Court of Human Rights call for reform of Ireland’s complex pregnancy termination laws.

Despite claims of Fine Gael resistance to any new legislation, Mr Reilly scotched suggestions of any fall-out between himself and Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.

“We have had no difference of opinion in this regard at all,” he said.

“But we are very clear on one thing, we owe it to the citizens of this country and we owe to the professionals who care for them to give them absolute clarity about the law and what’s permissible and not permissible.”

Mr Reilly was adamant the controversy would be dealt with “in a full and frank way”.

The Minister said he wanted Ms Halappanavar’s family and the Irish people to have certainty and full facts about exactly what happened, and if anything could have been prevented, that it would not happen again.

Two investigations are already under way into Ms Halappanavar’s death from septicaemia on October 28 in Galway University Hospital.

She was found to be miscarrying at 17 weeks after going to hospital with back pain a week earlier, and her husband Praveen claimed she asked several times over a three-day period for the pregnancy to be terminated.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted he will not be bounced into any action ahead of considering the full report of the expert group.

“I’m not going to be rushed into a situation by force of numbers on any side,” he said.

“This is something that has to be treated rationally and openly and truthfully, and that’s what will happen.”

Mr Kenny said the expert group report will be published after the Cabinet sees it.

Mr Gilmore met with Indian ambassador to Ireland Debashish Chakravarti this afternoon.

The Tánaiste said he passed on the sympathy and sense of grief of the Irish people over Ms Halappanavar’s death.

“I have asked him to convey that in the first place to Indian community here in Ireland and also to the wider public in India, where I know that Savita’s death is a matter of very great concern.”

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