Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Roman Catholic Bishops' Statement.

Proinsias De Rossa

Question:

5 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the Government's response to the statement issued by the Roman Catholic Bishops on 26 May 1992.

The Government have welcomed the statement of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference on the Maastricht referendum. In our response, we welcomed in particular the reminder that the Catholic Church both in Ireland and Europe has always supported greater European unity, a point also conveyed in the formal message from the Synod of Bishops in Rome last December to the European Heads of State and Government meeting in Maastricht.

The Government also welcomed the recognition in the statement of the positive value of the declaration obtained by the Government from their EC partners, and that both Article 40.3.3 and the Protocol, even following the Supreme Court judgment, still provide a degree of protection to the right to life of the unborn.

The Government statement went on to reiterate that we fully accept that the substantive issue of abortion as well as the question of travel and information must be addressed, and that we are committed to doing so later in the year. We also pointed out that it is clear from the Bishops' statement that they see no particular advantage in rejecting the European Union Treaty on 18 June from the point of view of protecting the unborn. Finally, the Government noted that the Bishops' statement recognises many of the practical difficulties and complexities of the situation and that they do not equate ratification of the Treaty with abortion.

I would draw the Taoiseach's attention to an aspect of the bishops' statement in that they urged the Government to restore the constitutional guarantee of the right to life of the child in the womb. May I ask the Taoiseach what his response is to that statement? Does he intend, as seems to be the request, to overturn the Supreme Court judgment in the X case?

I repeat for the umpteenth time for the information of the Deputy that the Government will revert to the substantive issue and aspects of it later this year and will deal with it then.

Obviously that is a totally inadequate response——

It is no response.

——given the signals that the Taoiseach has given to people outside this House. May I ask the Taoiseach again whether he would express a view on Article 40.3.3º, that if right to life of the unborn in the womb is to be restored, as the Roman Catholic bishops claim——

The Deputy is a great man for the bishops.

——that can only be done at the cost of denying the woman's right to life?

The Taoiseach understands what the Deputy is saying.

We are having repetition?

It is a question of repeating what I have said to the Deputy already, but if he has evidence of clear signals to parties outside the House I would be only too delighted to hear it. My line has not changed one iota on this subject. The complexities of the matter are being studied by a Cabinet sub-committee who in turn will report to the Cabinet. The Government are committed to dealing fully with all aspects of the Supreme Court judgment and Article 40.3.3º later this year. This is the position and it has not change one iota.

Can we clarify that what the Taoiseach intends to do——

Sorry, the House has been able to deal with less than five questions in virtually half an hour and that is not good enough from any standpoint.

If the Taoiseach used clearer language we might be able to make more progress.

Brevity, please.

Would the Taoiseach state categorically, without equivocation, that in the autumn, as well as dealing with the question of travel and information, he intends to hold a referendum to restore what the bishops claim is the right to life of the unborn in the womb?

I will speak slowly, clearly and simply, and I hope the Deputy understands it for the last time. The Government will deal with this matter later this year after the Cabinet sub-committee have reported to them.

Which Government?

The matter will be dealt with on the basis of legislation, referendum, or both.

Why can the Taoiseach not answer the question honestly?