Private Members’ Business

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I wish to begin by joining with my colleagues in this chamber in extending my deepest sympathy to the family of Savita Halappanavar. What happened to Ms. Halappanavar was a dreadful tragedy and a huge loss for her husband and for both Savita’s and her husband Praveen’s family.

I fully understand that there is a need for answers as to why this happened and I strongly believe that it is important that the inquiry announced this week gets underway in coming days and I hope it reports back as soon as possible, because that is what the Halappanavar family deserve.

I very much welcome the fact that the report of the Expert Group will be published next Tuesday. I believe that this move is the correct one and have always agreed with the Minister for Health James Reilly and Taoiseach Enda Kenny that this report should be published and we must wait to see what recommendations are contained in that report and for that reason I cannot support tonight’s motion.

I believe that until the investigation into the reasons for Ms. Halapannavar’s death is concluded, it behoves members on all sides of this house not to apportion blame or to jump to conclusions. Instead, we must wait for the facts of the case to be presented to us. I regret that Mr. Praveen Halapannavar does not have confidence in the HSE Inquiry instituted into her death. I recognise fully his concerns that colleagues of those who were responsible for Ms. Halapannavar’s care in University Hospital Galway should not be involved in the Inquiry and welcome the fact that this matter has been addressed with the replacement of three Galway-based consultants on the Inquiry team.

I believe that the government is seeking to establish what will be an objective, fair and timely inquiry into the matter. I also believe that it is imperative that the facts of this case be ascertained quickly and the findings made available as quickly as possible. A public inquiry would not be the best or most prudent method of conducting such an inquiry, we have only to look at the length of time it took to get to the nub of issues in the various tribunals to understand that a public inquiry could slow the process hugely and descend into interminable legal wrangling.

As a Dáil and as legislators, I recognise that something will have to be done on this issue, but it is important that we wait until we have all the evidence together before we take that step.

We are all aware that abortion is a hugely divisive issue, an issue that will divide political parties, work colleagues and families, but that shouldn’t take from the fact that action will now have to be taken on this issue, largely because of a failure of successive Governments to face up to this issue for the past 20 years.