DUBLIN, July 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Four politicians of Ireland’s ruling political party have been ousted from the party after refusing to support the legalisation of abortion. Terence Flanagan, Peter Matthews, Billy Timmins and Brian Walsh, all Fine Gael TDs, have been expelled summarily and have had their contact details removed from the party website, all within 24 hours of the first vote.
The party is in a coalition government with Ireland’s Labour Party and has pushed hard for their “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act,” which proposes to legalise direct abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in cases where the mother has threatened suicide. Despite heavy pressure from backbenchers the party leader, Prime Minister Enda Kenny, refused to allow a conscience vote. The bill passed its first vote in the lower house this week, 138 votes to 24.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told LSN that the action by the party smacks of “old fashioned, high-handed political retribution.” It was made public that any party member refusing to support the bill would lose the party whip, and the four former members have been told to vacate their offices immediately.
“The four of them had made clear that they were going to vote no,” Uí Bhriain said. “They clearly indicated that if there were no changes to the bill they were going to vote against it.”
She called it “extraordinary,” and “spiteful” for Fine Gael to immediately commence punitive action against them. “By ten am the following morning their information had been removed from the Fine Gael website,” she said.
She described Enda Kenny’s determination to push the bill forward as “ruthless.” “This is the same Enda Kenny who is so critical of the Catholic Church, but has acted like an autocrat by removing them from the party.”
The party has also said it will be looking immediately for replacement candidates to run in their place in the next general election. But Uí Bhriain said that this just shows more of the arrogance of the party leadership.
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“Choosing candidates for individual ridings is up to the local party membership of those places. It’s not something that either Kenny or the Cabinet has the right to do.
“This is not democracy any more. It’s just Kenny trying to show he’s in control,” she added. Obviously, she said, the ouster is meant to “scare other TDs” into falling into line. “They’re sending a message.”
Uí Bhriain added, “I want to express my admiration for them. These are obviously people of good conscience. It would have been easier for them to abstain or vote with the party. But they stood up for what they believed in and are being punished for it. They’re to be admired.”