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 Header Item Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee
 Header Item Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case: Statements (Resumed)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] Outside of London, bus services were deregulated and privatised entirely. It was a disaster and bus services collapsed. What was done inside London was different, though. In London, bus services are still subvented. Indeed, the subventions are high, but various companies tender for them. As a result, there is good value for money.

Deputy Lawlor mentioned last night's tragedy on Dawson Street in which a man lost his life. I wish to extend my sympathy to his family and to the bus driver involved. It must have been traumatic and shocking for him. I was caught in the gridlock. I will speak to the Garda and various authorities about how such an incident can be managed better in future and what was done with the real-time passenger information, RTPI, signs.

Deputy Mattie McGrath mentioned a number of matters, that of the fuel rebate for hauliers in particular. It was hard fought for and well won by the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA. The association went about it the right way, made its case well, used independent analysts to support its case and campaigned strongly for the rebate. I wish to acknowledge the work of Deputies Heather Humphreys and Áine Collins in assisting the IRHA and me in getting the issue of the rebate across the line. It will work. It will reduce fuel tourism out of Ireland and encourage it into Ireland, which is a positive. It will also ensure greater compliance in the sector, as only tax compliant and fully licensed operators will be eligible for it, which is an important element.

I was asked whether the rebate will extend to buses. I still need clarity on this matter, as much of it relates to European regulations in this space. The cost of including buses in the rebate is small and would be covered in the Estimate in Wednesday's budget.

I thank Members for their understanding of and support for the Bill.

  Question put and agreed to.

Transport (Córas Iompair Éireann and Subsidiary Companies Borrowings) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I move:

That the Bill be referred to the Select Sub-Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport pursuant to pursuant to Standing Orders 82A(3)(a) and (6)(a) and 126(1) of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business.

  Question put and agreed to.

Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case: Statements (Resumed)

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace No one yet knows for sure what happened to Savita Halappanavar. We know that she wanted to be pregnant, that she miscarried and that the care she received did not save her life. It is important to push for medical accountability in such cases and to demand full investigations into whether protocols existed and were followed and whether the patient was subjected to discriminatory harassment and remarks, as has been alleged.

We need not wait for the investigation to highlight what we know about abortion in Ireland. The Government has yet to regulate access to life-saving abortions despite the fact that such medical interventions have been legal in this country for two decades. The legality of an abortion where the pregnant woman's life is in danger was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1992 and supported by a referendum in the same year. While abortion generally is criminalised in Ireland, women whose lives are threatened by their pregnancies are constitutionally entitled to have abortions.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights berated the Government for not regulating access to life-saving abortions clearly, thereby creating insecurity for medical providers and patients alike. Many medical providers want clarity on when they can intervene and when they cannot. How does the Government propose to treat a woman who may or may not die as a result of her pregnancy? Should it tell her to return when she is sure she will die? How will she know and what if it is too late? Who would be responsible for such preventable deaths?

In recent weeks, we have heard time and again about the pain and fear that pregnant women face when something is clearly wrong with their pregnancies and they cannot receive care near home. Abortion is a medical intervention to which women need access, some to save their lives. This is not an opinion - it is a fact, as evidenced by the thousands of women who travel from Ireland to the UK or mainland Europe to terminate pregnancies every year. Knowing this, why do we keep postponing doing the right thing?

Twelve women travel from Ireland to the UK each day to access abortion services. They are from all walks of life and each has her own reasons for deciding to have an abortion. Women's experiences of abortion are diverse and complex and the decision to have one is not taken lightly. Women's reasons for choosing abortion, such as financial worries, concerns about the well-being of other children, diagnoses of serious foetal abnormalities, pre-existing health problems, including mental health problems, and relationship issues, can be stressful. The stress involved in making the decision is exacerbated by needing to travel to another country to access abortion services, by the expense involved, by feelings of fear, stigma and secrecy, by a sense of isolation and by a lack of support. For these women, the need to travel abroad involves unnecessary hardships and, in many cases, significant psychological, physical and financial burdens. The women and girls who experience the most difficulty are those who are marginalised and disadvantaged, namely, those with little or no incomes, those with care responsibilities, those with disabilities, those with mental illnesses, those experiencing violence, those who are young and those of uncertain residency status.

Deputy Olivia Mitchell: Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell I have spoken on this issue twice in recent months, but I wish to make further points and to amplify points I have made previously.

Yet again, this issue is turning out to be emotive, divisive and contentious, and needlessly so, as there are central areas of agreement. For instance, I want healthy women to deliver healthy babies. This is everyone's ideal. However, the term "pro-life" is being used as if some of us favour death for children and mothers.

What is often forgotten is that protecting our young is possibly the strongest human biological urge. I do not like making generalisations, but I can say without fear of being contradicted that no woman ever lightly chooses a termination, even when her own life is at risk. We are often in awe of stories and reports of the lengths to which mothers will go to protect their children. In the most extreme circumstances in wars and so on, women make considerable sacrifices. For example, they will go without food and put themselves in danger of death to protect their children. This is not just the case in wars and other extreme circumstances. Every day, mothers are making the most amazing sacrifices for their children.

It is insulting to women generally to be of the attitude that there is a mindless desire among them for abortion on demand. People with that belief could not be more wrong. No one considers abortion a good or highly desirable measure. Let us at least agree on this much.

I welcome the Government's commitment to report on the option that will be chosen from the expert group report before Christmas. Legislation is the best option. Even the expert group, which was not asked to make a recommendation, but to give options, believed that, according to the logic of its deliberations, legislation would be necessary if legal certainty was to be given to doctors.

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