Wednesday 21 November 2012
“We are debating this issue at a time when the entire country is deeply saddened by the death of Savita Halappanavar. The untimely death of that lovely lady is a deeply shocking tragedy and I sympathise with her family and her husband, who are undoubtedly struggling to come to terms with the events of the past month.
I wish to acknowledge the dignity and courage of Mr. Halappanavar in dealing with the circumstances of his wife’s death. As those of us who have lost someone know, dealing with a death is difficult in the privacy of the family home, but to do so in the full glare of the national and international media compounds these tragic circumstances. That a young woman in the prime of her life should pass away in the care of a hospital raises serious concerns. An investigation with independent oversight of the full circumstances of this tragedy is required. The Government’s establishment of an independent investigation team led by a leading international expert is an attempt to get the answers that we all want and seek. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have openly and clearly stated that they want to establish the full facts. This is what we all want.
I hope that there can be a dialogue between Mr. Halappanavar and the chairman of the independent investigation committee so that we can allow the inquiry to proceed. At yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children, Mr. Tony O’Brien of the HSE confirmed that he was willing and available to meet Mr. Halappanavar. A direct meeting on a without prejudice basis may be the best approach.
The past week has brought into focus the wider issue of the A, B, and C judgment and how the State will address the findings of the European Court of Human Rights. The Government has acted. In 18 months, an expert review group has been set up and will report. The Cabinet will have that report next week and the House will debate it in due time.
The termination of a pregnancy, be it by direct intervention or as a consequence of medical treatment, is a serious matter. We have heard from medical professionals about the difficulties that they face. We have heard from women who have faced similar difficult decisions. The House has an obligation to ensure that medical professionals and women have legal clarity. We cannot allow a situation to continue in which doctors are uncertain as to what they can and cannot do.
I very much welcome that the Minister is bringing the report to the Cabinet next week and that we will debate it. Our discussion will facilitate the deliberate consideration of the report and it will enable a rational approach that will hopefully provide legal clarity to medical practitioners and women who find themselves in very difficult circumstances. The Government has listened.
In conclusion, we need a thought-out, considered and timely response to the report of the expert group. However, the primary motion before the House is ill-thought-out, ill-considered and ill-timed. It is exactly what is not needed at this time when addressing a complex and sensitive issue. It calls for the immediate publication of the expert group’s report and for immediate legislation. Instead, we need a full, open debate on the report followed by a Government decision, whatever that is. That is what we should be doing, not engaging in cheap political gamesmanship in this House.”