Cabinet cannot overplay its hand on referendum

10 January 2018

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said that the Cabinet has little or no freedom for manoeuvre on the nature of the abortion referendum it has committed to hold.

He said media reports on the views of individual members of the Government serve no purpose. They have collectively supported a process to date and should continue to do so.

The Cabinet has to act as a single entity in bringing a proposal to the Oireachtas to hold a referendum as soon as possible.

Deputy Howlin said:

“While it is welcome that the Cabinet discussed the issue of the referendum at its meeting today for two hours, given the tight time frames we are now operating on, it should recognise that it has no scope or leeway to not put the substantive outcome of the Oireachtas Committee report to the people.

“There should be no divergence from what the Committee agreed on repeal simpliciter. Opening up a discussion on inserting new language in the Constitution has the potential to derail the progress made so far.

“The Government is the author of the approach involving the Citizen’s Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee. It is now effectively bound to put that proposal to the people in a referendum.

“And it should recognise this responsibility collectively. While individual cabinet members may have the leeway to vote or campaign on either side of the referendum proposal itself, I believe they are collectively duty bound to facilitate the holding of the referendum and should act accordingly.

“If new politics has been about the elevation of the role of Parliament then the Cabinet, as I say authors of this process, are bound to put the outcome of the Oireachtas Committee to the people.”

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