Enda Kenny's leadership comes under pressure ahead of fatal foetal abnormalities vote

Mick Wallace says there "has been a bit of confusion" about the Bill TDs are voting on today

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Enda Kenny's leadership has come under pressure ahead of today's Dáil vote on proposed abortion legislation.

At a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night, a number of the Taoiseach's own deputies voiced unhappiness with his decision to allow Independent ministers vote against the rest of their cabinet colleagues.

Independents are to support Mick Wallace's fatal foetal abnormalities Bill, allowing terminations where babies will not survive outside the womb.

However the Taoiseach says the Bill is 'flawed' and 'bad for women'. The Attorney General has also warned it is unconstitutional.

The Cork Fine Gael TD, Jim Daly, says Enda Kenny should have insisted the Independent Transport Minister Shane Ross voted it down with the rest of the Cabinet.

"It's a Bill that has been declared unconstitutional," he argued. "Shane Ross is willing to compromise the Government on that, and I think that is very unfair.

"And then there's collective responsibility, as part of the same Constitution, which is being ignored on this occasion". 

Independent TD Mick Wallace has accepted that there is a chance his controversial Bill may not get through the Dáil when it is voted on later.

The Wexford deputy said that he is glad some Independent ministers have opted to support the Bill.

"I wish Fine Gael would give a free vote to all its members, and let's see what happens," he added.

Deputy Wallace told Pat Kenny there "has been a bit of confusion about the Bill - and some of it in my opinion has been deliberate".

He explained: "We're not talking about life-limiting illness [...] We are talking solely about situations where the prospects are fatal - and where fatal is not open for question.

"If we were to pass the Bill [...] - and we know [it's not perfect] - it can be modified, it can be improved at Committee stage. We're just asking - let it be tested. Let the courts decide. It will actually bring forward, it will add a bit of urgency to the fact that there are at least four or five every week in Ireland having to travel out of the country to have a fatal foetal abnormality dealt with".

He also said the Government has 'done nothing' to deal with international criticism of Ireland's restrictive abortion laws.

"Why aren't we having a referendum in six weeks time on 'Repeal the 8th' if they're actually genuine about it?" he added.

Today's vote comes ahead of a Citizens' Assembly that is due to discuss the issue of the 8th Amendment in the autumn.

The Health Minister has confirmed that it is now hoped the assembly will commence before the previously planned start date of November.