Brid Smith holds up abortion tablets in Dáil as she challenges government to prosecute her

Fine Gael, Independent Alliance agree deal to prevent abortion bill from proceeding

Brid Smith holds up abortion tablets in Dáil as she challenges government to prosecute her

PBP TD Brid Smith | Photo: RollingNews.ie

Updated: 9pm

A TD has challenged the government to prosecute her for possessing tablets which can be used to cause an abortion.

People Before Profit deputy Brid Smith held up the tablets during tonight's debate on a bill calling for a referendum on the eighth amendment.

Deputy Smith said the government knew it could not stand over its own laws, telling TDs: "You could arrest me for having it, and give me 14 years.

"But you ain't going to do it, because ... you know if you dared to implement, it you'd bring down hellfire and brimstone down on this House."

She said the tablets were proof that abortion was a reality in Ireland, and that the law should reflect it.

Cabinet members earlier reached a deal on abortion legislation being put forward by the opposition.

Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance agreed to back a counter-motion, which will be tabled during the debate this evening.

The bill from the AAA-PBP, which seeks a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment, will not be opposed by government, but will not be permitted to proceed either.

The counter-motion agrees not to pass any bills on abortion while the Citizens' Assembly is still considering the subject.

It will also see an Oireachtas committee being established to begin work immediately after the assembly reports back on the matter next year.

Cabinet has also decided that a whip will not apply to independent ministers on issues that are not contained in the Programme for Government.

The agreement defuses a long-running dispute which had seen some Independent ministers demand a free vote.

In a statement, the Government said that "when a decision is being made in the Dáil on the outcome of the Citizens' Assembly and Special Oireachtas Committee processes, all members of the Government, and all deputies supporting the Government, will exercise their votes freely in accordance with their consciences". 

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said it was important to deal with the issue as speedily as possible:

But AAA TD Ruth Coppinger said the move represents a delaying tactic:

Speaking to Newstalk Drive, junior minister Finian McGrath was adamant that independents did not back down on abortion.

Progress requires give and take, he said, adding that the Independent Alliance had "pinned Fine Gael down to a timeline in relation to coming back to the Oireachtas".

"That's a major win for women and women's health," he said. 

Earlier today, Housing Minister Simon Coveney hit out at those he believed are playing politics with the issue.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Minister Coveney said: "In the middle of an agreed process by government that is underway to look at the details and difficulties around this issue, opposition parties are trying to split the government and embarrass people."