Private Members' Business. - An Bille um an Aonú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1992: An Dara Céim. Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1992: Second Stage.

Tairgim: "Go léifear an Bille don Dara Uair".

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

On behalf of the parliamentary Labour Party I commend the Bill to the House. In the final analysis, the debate on it is about trust. To be specific, it is about whether we should trust the Coalition Government to ensure that the rights of pregnant women and girls to travel abroad and obtain any and all information they need about their pregnancy will be fully protected once the Treaty on European Union is accepted, if it is, in the referendum on 18 June. A great many people, many of whom are still considering the issues and have yet to make up their minds, want to know the answer to that simple question before they decide how to cast their vote in the referendum.

Those people are asking themselves the following questions. Can the people of Ireland trust a Government that sent a senior counsel into the Supreme Court to tell that court that if an English citizen came to Ireland and found herself pregnant and if it became known to the Irish Attorney General that she intended to go home to England for an abortion he would have no choice but to seek to prevent her doing so? Can they trust a Government who promised to deal with the issue of travel and information by amending the Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty and, when they failed to secure an agreement on that, refused to consider ways and means of either deleting or unilaterally renouncing that Protocol? Can they trust a Government who held up a so-called solemn declaration as having all the force of European law — I was on a radio programme one morning when the Minister for Foreign Affairs made the utterance that the solemn declaration had all the force of European law? Only this week the European Commission's legal services explicitly stated in the course of a dispute with the British Government that, "a Declaration can never deprive an Article in the Treaty of its practical effectiveness".

Perhaps the question to which people need an answer, one that has not been forthcoming, is, why was the Protocol inserted in the first place, who was it meant to appease and what was it meant to protect? All we know is that the Protocol was inserted in stealth at a meeting of Foreign Ministers towards the end of November last year. We were never told in this House or elsewhere that it was to be inserted or what is was meant to do. All efforts, since it came to light, to elucidate on that question have come to nought. For example, in the X case in the Supreme Court counsel for the family repeatedly asked that all documentation relating to the Protocol be produced. On the third day of the hearing counsel for the State disclosed that there had been no written representations to any other state in relation to the Protocol and, as far he was aware, no oral representations were made either.

How did the Protocol come about? Where did it come from? What magic wand was waved to produce this Protocol which has caused so much damage? The only clue we can find is an annotation in the Common Market Law Report of 7 January of this year. This annotation, which does not have the force of law, was prepared and inserted a month before the X case even arose. It makes it clear that it was the intention of the Irish Government, and the understanding of other member states, that the Protocol was intended "to ensure that no further challenges should be brought to the European Court of Justice against the anti-abortion provision in Article 40.3.3º of the Irish Constitution". The significance of this lies in the fact that the European Court of Justice, in the so-called Grogan case, left open the possibility that a ban on information could be overturned in a future case. In other words, the Protocol was intended to at least copperfasten the ban on information.

At the time the Protocol was designed and negotiated nobody anticipated that the circumstances which gave rise to the X case would result in an injunction being sought. However, there is no reason to believe that the Government would have been deterred from proceeding with the insertion of the Protocol even if it had occurred to them that it would subsequently be interpreted to deprive Irish women of their explicit European right to travel freely between sovereign states in the European Community, and to deprive them of that right without recourse to appeal to the European courts. That Protocol was designed and added to the Treaty because it was politically expedient for the previous Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs to enter into a secret understanding with some powerful elements in the so-called pro-life movement.

It has been said again and again by the Government, and others, that the Maastricht Treaty and the Protocol involve no risk to rights of travel and information. That is the contention they have repeated on the national airwaves since this controversy arose, but that is demonstrably and patently untrue. Unless the Government act to copperfasten these rights, if they believe them to be important, the Protocol will present a serious risk to them, and there is no denying that basic fact. At this stage the only clear and safe way to copperfasten those basic rights is to write them into Irish constitutional law. We should be under no misunderstanding about this. This is not something that Europe has inflicted upon us. Neither is it something that arises from any potential obligations we may have as a member of the soon-to-be European union. The effect of the Protocol may well be to prevent the European institutions protecting the rights of Irish women. The Protocol deprives the European Court of jurisdiction in any dispute about these basic rights. In that sense, the Protocol is profoundly anti-Europe.

No Government who are willing to stand over that Protocol and refuse to take the options available to them in the course of the debate on this constitutional amendment can describe themselves as a Government who are committed to the notion of European citizenship. There is an element of total hypocrisy in a Government seeking to affirm the benefits of the new integrated Europe or the establishment of European citizenship and at the same time seeking to obscure the fact that a large section of Irish citizens will enter Europe as second-class citizens and will remain so until these basic rights have been re-established.

Most politicians and most members of the general public who watched the Progressive Democrats' annual conference in Waterford will have been impressed by the speech of the Leader of that party when he pledged himself and his party, in ringing tones and with great solemnity, to protecting the full rights of Irish citizens in Europe. It is a pity that he and members of his party are not here to listen, if not to contribute, to this debate. At its conclusion the Progressive Democrats will be given the opportunity to stand up for those rights. To use this Leader's famous phrase, they will be given the opportunity to stand by the Republic. If they fail to do so they can never again argue that their first priority is the equality of every citizen.

Before going into the details of this Bill it is necessary to set out in some detail an analysis of the general situation which has arisen subsequent to the Supreme Court decision in the X case. Although we are dealing tonight with only some of the implications — the issues of travel and information — it is necessary not to forget the substantive issue to be dealt with. I intend to address also the substantive issue of abortion. We have made the most careful analysis we can as a political party of each of the individual judgments issued by the members of the Supreme Court. Arising from that analysis we are clear that the Supreme Court has found the following:

1. Within the terms of Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution abortions are lawful in certain circumstances, specifically in any situation where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

2. Under the terms of our Constitution, in certain circumstances the right of a pregnant women to travel abroad can be curtailed.

Regarding the first point, the permissibility of abortion, the key judgment is contained in the following quotations, the first of which is from the judgment of Mr. Justice Finlay.

I, therefore, conclude that the proper test to be aplied is that if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life as distinct from the health of the mother, which can only be avoided by the termination of the pregnancy, that such termination is permissible, having regard to the true interpretation of Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution.

The second quotation is from the judgment of Mr. Justice O'Flaherty:

Until legislation is enacted to provide otherwise, I believe that the law in this State is that surgical intervention which has the effect of terminating pregnancy bona fide undertaken to save the life of the mother where she is in danger of death is permissible under the Constitution and the law. The danger has to represent a substantial risk to her life though this does not necessarily have to be an imminent danger of instant death.

The third quotation is from the judgment of Mr. Justice Egan:

In my opinion the true test should be that a pregnancy may be terminated if its continuance as a matter of probability involves a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. The risk must be to her life..."

The fourth quotation is from the judgment of Mr. Justice McCarthy:

. . . when there is real and substantial risk attached to her survival not merely at the time of application but in contemplation at least throughout the pregnancy, then it may not be practicable to vindicate the right to life of the unborn... This conclusion leads inevitably to the recognition that the wording of the Amendment contemplates abortion lawfully taking place within this State.

With regard to the second point, the right to travel, I want to put on the record the key passages from each of the Supreme Court judgments. Mr. Justice Finlay stated:

I would be forced to conclude that if there were a stark conflict between the right of a mother with an unborn child to travel and the right to life of the unborn child, the right to life would necessarily have to take precedence over the right to travel.

Mr. Justice Egan stated:

The right to travel can only effectively arise in reference to an intention to procure an unlawful abortion and must surely rank lower than the right to life of the unborn.

Mr. Justice Hederman stated:

If that involves restraint upon the removal of the protected life from the jurisdiction it necessarily involves the restraint of the movement of the pregnant woman. A restraint upon leaving the territory of the jurisdiction of the Courts would in the ordinary way be a restraint upon the exercise of the constitutional right to travel but the competing right is the preservation of life and of the two the preservation of life must be deemed to be paramount and to be sufficient to suspend for at least the period of gestation of the unborn life the right to travel.

I wanted to put all those specific judgments on the record of the House.

The implications of the court's judgment in this matter are profound. It can be argued that technically abortion is available in Ireland on an unregulated basis, subject to there being a genuine and substantial risk to the life of the mother. If that position were to be maintained for any length of time, the theoretical risk to health and indeed the lives of women would be very considerable.

At the same time, despite the provisions of the Constitution, it can be argued that in the absence of any regulation, there is no effective protection for the life of the unborn.

In addition, the judgment clearly has profound implications for what has been seen up to now as a basic right, the right of free travel. It can be argued that we now live in a State where the only pregnant woman who would be free to travel abroad in a completely unfettered way is one who is in imminent and visible danger to her life. In the light of the judgments, and, of course, of the Protocol, the restoration of this right cannot be achieved merely by legislation. Both of these implications can and must be addressed. The Labour Party's view is that failure to do so would be an abject failure by the Legislature and the Executive.

The Bill we have asked the House to consider deals only with the issues of travel and information, not because they are more important than the substantive issue of abortion itself — clearly, that is a crucially important issue as well — but only because the Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty has made the issues of travel and information extremely urgent.

We must, I believe, take a lead from what Mr. Justice McCarthy said in the Supreme Court in his judgment which was as follows:

In the context of the eight years that have passed since the Amendment was adopted. . . the failure by the legislature to enact the appropriate legislation is no longer just unfortunate; it is inexcusable. What are pregnant women to do? What are the parents of a pregnant girl under age to do? What are the medical profession to do? They have no guidelines save what may be gleaned from the judgments in this case.

When we eventually come to consider the substantive issue of abortion, we will have to remember that the only guideline to be found in the court's judgments is the guideline of, "a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother". Nowhere in the judgments can we find any guideline as to who ought to assess this risk on an ongoing basis, as to any limits that ought to be placed on where operations might be carried out and in what conditions, or as to the maximum term of pregnancy within which a termination may be permitted. These are issues which, if other options are ruled out, must be addressed by the Legislature.

Among the options to be considered now, as we prepare to deal with the substantive issue of abortion, is that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution be deleted by referendum. However, it is entirely probable that the deletion of the Eighth Amendment, in and of itself, would make not the slightest difference.

In this connection, I would point out the first sentence in the judgment of Mr. Justice O'Flaherty when he said, "the enactment of Article 40.3.3º in 1983 did not I believe bring about any fundamental change in our law." It is quite clear that the courts have taken the view, notwithstanding anything specific in the Constitution, that the right to life of the unborn must be protected not-withstanding anything that was done or purported to have been done in 1983.

Alternatively, it would be possible to seek to replace Article 40.3.3º with an article which prohibited abortion in all circumstances in Ireland. Such an amendment would be asserting that the mother's right to life was subordinate to that of her unborn child. Even if it were acceptable to insert such an article in our Constitution — and I and a great many others would argue that it is entirely unacceptable — the reality is that such an amendment would be unlikely to change the view of the court expressed in this case, that a mother at serious risk to her life must be protected. It would be in obvious and total conflict with the personal rights contained in Article 43 of the Constitution.

In any event, as I said, any such proposal would be bitterly, and rightly, fought on the grounds that a complete ban on termination in every case would immediately give rise to extreme danger for women at medical risk through, for example, uterine cancer or ectopic pregnancy. It would be widely seen as an intensely hypocritical approach to a complex and painful problem.

A third option would be to seek to amend the Constitution to set out therein a range of possible grounds on which terminations might be permitted. However, it would be clearly immensely difficult — in my view impossible — to list such grounds in so inclusive or comprehensive a way as not to leave any further room for doubt or ambiguity. Although a number of additional permutations and combinations are possible to imagine, I find it almost inconceivable that a formula can be developed, to be enshrined in the Constitution through a referendum, which would not be the subject of an intensely divisive campaign.

I also believe, having carefully considered the judgments of the Supreme Court, that it would be virtually impossible to devise a formula for a new insertion in the Constitution which would pass the test that the court has devised — the probability of real and substantial risk to the life of the mother — any better than the existing formulation. In those circumstances, it seems clear that we must sooner or later address the legislative changes that are necessary and constitutionally possible to give effect to the court's judgment.

The Supreme Court has decided that there are certain circumstances in which abortions are permissible under our Constitution. For all the reasons outlined above, we must start from the point that there is no going back from that judgment. We have in our Constitution, as a result of the Supreme Court decision an equality of rights between the unborn and the mother, except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, where the mother's life must take precedence. That is a position that will be supported by most reasonable people.

We need new legislation to give clear guidelines on this matter. Such legislation must, in addition to taking careful account of the judgments of the court, also deal with a number of factors, including independent psychological and medical procedures for assessing risk in any mother seeking the termination of a pregnancy; qualifications of the persons authorised to carry out the medical procedures involved in terminations; the maximum term within which terminations may be permitted and the degree to which information and counselling in respect of terminations will be made available.

In addition, action now must take account of the views expressed by Mr. Justice McCarthy in his judgment. He said:

Legislation may be both negative and positive: negative, in prohibiting absolutely or at a given time, or without meeting stringent tests: positive by requiring positive action. The State may fulfil its role by providing necessary agencies to help, to counsel, to encourage, to comfort, to plan for the pregnant woman, the pregnant girl or her family.

We cannot ignore the need to establish a whole new, and adequately resourced, counselling agency to deal with all of the implications of this situation.

To return to the main issue before us tonight, I want to refer for a moment to the position that would arise if the Maastricht Protocol was deleted. While clearly, its deletion would be preferable to the present situation, it should not be forgotten that the Supreme Court did not issue any judgment on the European law aspects of the issue of travel in the "X" case. Therefore, it is entirely arguable that if the Protocol was simply to cease to exist, the paramount legal view on this issue would then be that of Mr. Justice Costello in the High Court. He is the only judge who has examined this issue as a matter of European law, as opposed to Irish constitutional law alone. He has already found that under existing European law, it is permissible for the Irish State to restrict the right of travel to protect the right to life of the unborn. His judgment in the matter is not capable in the present circumstances of being appealed to Europe, since it has been overturned, on an interpretation of Irish law by the Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court took no account of European law aspects of the case.

In these circumstances, therefore, and for all the reasons I have argued, I believe that the only safe thing to do, in order to restore a fundamental right of travel which is now threatened in the case of every pregnant woman, is to amend our Constitution, and to do it now. The Bill we have published and which is before the House tonight would have the effect of achieving that and would enable the citizen's rights involved to be extracted from the Maastricht Referendum and the Maastricht debate. Our Bill is the only way that can be comprehensively achieved. The effect of our Bill is to provide for the holding of a referendum to insert into the Constitution the rights to travel and information that have been put in doubt by the combination of the recent Supreme Court decision and the Maastricht Protocol. If our amendment were adopted by the people the full test of Article 40.3.3º and a new Article 40.3.4º would read as follows:

40.3.3º The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

4º Sub-section 3 of this section shall not be invoked to prohibit or interfere with the exercise of the right— travel to and from the State for the purpose of receiving services lawfully available in other jurisdictions, or

ii. to obtain, within the State, information and counselling relating to such services.

The provision of such information and counselling may be regulated by law.

The wording is clear and self-explanatory. We believe there ought to be no provision in the Constitution which could be used to prevent pregnant women and girls from travelling abroad to receive services which are lawful in other jurisdictions, or to obtain in Ireland information, including counselling, in relation to such services. Our proposed amendment achieves those objectives. It also provides for the dissemination of such information and arrangements for counselling to be regulated by law, enacted in this Oireachtas, in order to ensure that all such information and counselling is of a proper quality and conducted in an appropriate setting.

In addition, the words chosen ought to be non-controversial. No group has argued against the right to travel and none has argued against the right of women to be informed. For that reason, we can see no reason this or very similar wording should not be accepted and enjoy widespread support across the political divide and among every party in this House.

It has been our intention since this Bill was published to seek cross-party consensus. We sent the text to the Leaders of each political party in this House and asked if they wished to co-sponsor the Bill. In that way we wished to approach this issue in a non-political, non-partisan way.

It is worthwhile mentioning that we did, in fact, receive a courteous reply to that approach from the Taoiseach in which he indicated an unwillingness to depart from the timescale he had previously set out. He indicated clearly he had no problem with the general thrust of the Bill. He also said in his letter, on behalf of the Government, that no action would be taken to offend against the spirit of the consensus that exists on the issues of travel and information.

The bottom line is that this Bill demonstrates that the issue can be addressed properly and in good time. A failure by the political system, and especially of the Government, to address the rights to travel and information in the context of Maastricht, could be a recipe for disaster.

I should like to sum up the situation. First, the referendum on Maastricht is inextricably linked with the issue of travel and information as it affects women. To say otherwise is to deny a basic reality. Unless that linkage is broken, it will be impossible for many citizens, particularly women, to vote in conscience for a Maastricht Treaty that otherwise they would be prepared to support. Second, the Government have argued that the issues of travel and information are too complex to deal with in the context of the referendum on Maastricht. That argument is erroneous. The issues of travel and information are not complex. However, the situation that could arise if they are not dealt with prior to the Maastricht Referendum is shrouded in complexity and danger.

There are some things we can be certain of; once the Maastricht Referendum is passed — if it is passed — so is the Maastricht Protocol; once the Maastricht Treaty has been adopted unchanged it will remain in force, incapable of being changed, at least until there is a full meeting of the new inter-governmental council, any changes agreed at that level may well not have any legal force since they will not be properly ratified. Therefore, in the absence of any other change, the Maastricht Protocol could defeat one of the main purposes of the Treaty itself — the notion of a common and equal citizenship with a broad range of rights, including the basic right to travel between the component parts of the new European Union. The concept of citizenship is fundamental to the Union Treaty and it is being compromised by the position adopted by the former Taoiseach and the position currently adopted by the Government.

The adoption of the Maastricht Protocol copperfastens judgments like those I quoted earlier and removes the possibility in future cases of an appeal to the European courts. We have argued in the past, and we still believe, if it were possible to delete the Protocol now it would mean that the primary source of law in the area would be the decision of Justice Costello in the High Court, since he was the only one to pronounce on the issue as a matter of European law, and the European law issue was not examined by the Supreme Court.

For all these reasons it is of fundamental importance that the right to travel and information be dealt with now. The Taoiseach and others have suggested that that right could be left to one side until the autumn, and that they can be trusted at that stage to deal with the issues. That means the Government are asking women and girls to agree, at best, to an interregnum period during which they will have rights that are less than those of every other European citizen, at worst, they are asking women and girls to believe that the issue will not be lost sight of because of some other crisis or instability or because they have capitulated to a pressure group. We live in volatile and difficult times.

For any Government to ask its citizens to issue them with a blank cheque in respect of a basic right such as this is unacceptable and it becomes completely intolerable when they refuse to take the necessary steps. In 1983 the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to insert a provision into the Constitution to protect the life of the unborn, subject only to the equal right to life of the mother. Despite the claims used by many people, there is no reason to believe the great majority of the people of Ireland want to see that balance of rights between the mother and the unborn child disturbed. Neither is there any reason to believe the majority want to see the right to travel and information, which is available to every other citizen in Europe, denied to any citizen of Ireland.

The Supreme Court interpretation of the balance of rights has given rise to the need for a complex and detailed examination of all the legislative options. We fully recognise that and it is not our intention to interfere with the process of examination and analysis that the Government have undertaken. As I have already said, the issues of travel and information do not require the same complexity of analysis and should be acted upon immediately. Now is the time to address these issues.

The Labour Party Bill before the House is the vehicle for the Government to show their good faith and bona fides in this regard. I commend the Bill to the House.

I want to share my time, if I may, with Deputy Dick Roche.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The position of the Government on the issues of travel and information has been dealt with in the House on a number of occasions. In reply to parliamentary questions on 28 April 1992 the Taoiseach informed the House that a referendum on the right to travel and information and other issues which it may be necessary to deal with as a result of the Supreme Court decision in the Attorney General v. X case will be held in November next. He has frequently pointed out in the House and elsewhere that the complexity of the issues arising out of the court's decision are such that the Government have decided to deal with all aspects together.

Deputies may recall that last week, in the course of debate in the House on the Government Bill to amend the Constitution to enable the State to ratify the Treaty on European Union, the Government rejected a motion from Deputy O'Keeffe to the effect that the Government should amend that Bill to provide for the travel and information issues or, alternatively, support the Private Members' Bill now before the House.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that while I commend Deputy Howlin for the work he has put into preparing this Bill and wish to say that I appreciate the arguments he has made for it, I must oppose the Bill. The Government's opposition to the Bill is not, obviously, based on any objection in principle to what it seeks to achieve. The approach of the Government, however, is to address fully all the issues raised by the court's decision in the most comprehensive way possible.

As the House will be aware, the issues arising from the Supreme Court judgment which require legislation and/or a referendum are being considered by a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The issues include the wording of the referendum on travel and information, the conditions which should govern the giving and obtaining of information on abortion, the legal and medical implications of the court's ruling on Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution and what action — a referendum and/or legislation — should be taken on that Article. There is a link between all these elements. They are, essentially, tied into Article 40.3.3º and it might not be possible for the Government to finalise the wording of their proposed referendum on travel and information in advance of any decisions on Article 40.3.3º. That is one reason the Government are unable to support the Private Members' Bill at this stage.

Considerable preliminary work has already been initiated by the Government sub-committee to enable the committee to consider carefully all the options. The committee are taking whatever time and effort is necessary to deal with the various issues. As soon as the committee have completed their work on any of the issues and the Government have completed their deliberations, the decisions made will be announced to the House. The Government will not be deflected from dealing comprehensively, as necessary, with all the issues.

I turn now to the two elements of the right to travel and information which are covered in this Bill. It has been asserted that the Bill, if approved by the people, would copperfasten the rights which are alleged to be threatened by the Protocol to the Treaty on European Union. The Government's view consistently has been that the Protocol does not have the effects which have been suggested and, moreover, the Government's view has been that there would be no advantage in holding a referendum on travel and information before the referendum on the Treaty. I was glad to hear that Deputy Spring recognised that latter point when, on 5 May 1992, in the debate on the Government's Referendum Bill on the Treaty on European Union he said his party would not press for completion of his party's Bill until the referendum was over. This, I think, was an acknowledgment of the reality of the position on the Protocol and I commend the Deputy for having made his party's position clear in that regard.

There are good and valid reasons why the Government do not regard the Protocol as threatening the rights of travel within the Community but, in any event, the Government have been prepared to avoid any uncertainty about the matter by seeking and obtaining the agreement of our EC partners in a solemn declaration that the Protocol as it stands protects the right to travel between EC states. Perhaps I should elaborate on the Government's reasoning if only to emphasise what has been said before on the matter in the House and by way of public statements.

Since the signing of the Treaty on European Union by the member states of 7 February 1992, three of the Supreme Court judges in the Attorney General v. X case decided that the constitutional right to life of the unborn takes precedence over the constitutional right to travel of the mother, so that an injunction can be granted by virtue of Article 40.3.3º against women going abroad for an unlawful abortion as interpreted by the Supreme Court, that is, one in which there is not a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. The argument raised has been that the Protocol, if passed, would copperfasten the effect of the judgment and would nullify rights of free movement conferred by the EC and Maastricht Treaties. Whether this is correct or not depends on the proper interpretation of the phrase “the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3º” in the Protocol.

The Government's view, shared by legal services in Brussels, is that the phrase is intended to refer to effects in Ireland only and cannot restrict movement or actions outside Ireland. It has, on the other hand, been argued that the issue of an injunction in Ireland against a woman within the jurisdiction to protect an unborn life within the jurisdiction is an application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3º. The Solemn Declaration, however, on which the Government have got agreement among all other EC states affirms, in effect, that the Protocol as it stands protects the right to travel between EC states. Under generally recognised rules of interpretation of international treaties — I am referring in particular to the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties — the declaration would have to be taken into account by any court in interpreting the Protocol.

The declaration deals with travel among EC states. Freedom of movement of persons is one of the freedoms guaranteed by the EC Treaty. It is part of the Community's legal order that people are free to move to any place in the Community either to establish themselves or to work or to render or receive services. This freedom, as is clear in particular from provisions in the Treaty on European Union, is the fundamental principle of the Community and will be of growing value in the years to come. The declaration affirms that right but the referendum proposal on travel that is promised by the Government would enshrine in our Constitution the freedom to travel to all states where abortion services are lawful, not just to other member states of the European Community.

It may transpire that the wording in the Private Members' Bill in so far as travel is concerned may not be markedly different from the wording that the Government will eventually propose and to that extent the Bill may well offer a basis for eventual consensus on the matter. The Government sub-committee have not, however, made their recommendations on the appropriate wording and would only be doing so in the context of recommendations on all the issues.

What I have said about travel being dealt with by the Government and the sub-committee in the context of a package of proposals applies equally to the questions of the freedom of persons to obtain in the State information and counselling concerning facilities in another state. Again, the wording that the Government decide on eventually may come close to what is in the Private Members' Bill but that is a matter for decision by the Government in due course on the basis of the recommendations to be made by the Government sub-committee.

The issue of freedom to provide and receive information and counselling did not, of course, come before the Supreme Court in the Attorney General v. X case. However, the Supreme Court did decide in cases in 1988 the Well Woman Centre case, and 1989 the Grogan case, that the dissemination of information on abortion is unlawful having regard to Article 40.3.3º. Following the decision in the Attorney General v. X case, that prohibition is presumed to extend only to information not covered by the decision, that is abortion in cases where there is not a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. In the Well Woman Centre case which is before the European Court of Human Rights on allegation of breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights the State has conceded as much. Since the case is still pending before the Court of Human Rights it would not be appropriate for me to comment any further on it. However, the information issue was, of course, raised before the EC Court of Justice on a reference to it by our High Court in the Grogan case and the EC court's deliberations in that case are of particular interest and relevant to the current debate on information.

The effect of the European Court's decision is that while lawful abortion in a state constitutes a service within the meaning of Article 59 of the EC Treaty, it is not contrary to Community law for a member state in which abortion is forbidden to prohibit the distribution of information about abortion services available in another member state where there is no economic link between the abortion service and the distribution of the information that is provided. The court did not specifically decide, but it may be that the court could be taken as implying that, if there was such a link, the distribution of the information would be permissible under Community law. The matter is not straightforward and it is recognised that member states have a margin of discretion within which to decide what should be permissible under their national laws.

The European Court has consistently held that Article 59 of the EC Treaty requires the abolition of any restriction which has the aim or effect of treating a provider of services established in a member state other than the member state where the service is provided less favourably on account of his nationality or his place of establishment other than a provider of services who is established in that member state. Article 59 also requires the abolition of any restrictions which the recipient of services might encounter on account of his nationality or of the fact that he is established in a member state other than that to which he goes in order to receive the services.

It follows from the case law of the European Court of Justice that not only providers of services who do so by way of trade or profession derive rights from the Treaty provisions on freedom to provide services but also Community citizens who wish to receive services derive rights therefrom. There is the question, of course, whether that right of Community citizens to receive services in another member state encompasses the right to receive, unimpeded, information in one's own member state about providers of services in the other member state.

The position, generally, appears to be that a prohibition on the distribution to persons resident in a member state of specific information designed to promote activities which are contrary to the legitimate public policy of that state, if performed there, may be applied even where the information invites persons to make use of those activities in another member state where the likely or intended result of the provision of such information is to undermine that public policy.

The prohibition at issue in the Grogan case, it was argued, by the State, was necessary in order to prevent the constitutional safeguard of the right to life of the unborn from being undermined. The courts, as part of the machinery of the State, it was said, had a duty to restrain activity which they consider to be unlawful and representing an attack on that right guaranteed by the Constitution. The prohibition in question, therefore, was necessary in order to effectively defend and vindicate the right to life which would otherwise be set at nought and circumvented. On that basis the State's view was that prohibition was justified under Community law.

The EC Commission's view in the case was that Irish law was compatible with Articles 59 and 60. The case, it said, concerned a total prohibition of abortion on Irish territory which extends to any acts done on its territory which may adversely affect the right to life of a foetus, even if that damage can take place only outside Ireland. It was clear in its view that the aim pursued — that of a ban on information on abortion — is in the domain of morality and not of economics and that the measure in question has no protectionist effect since a doctor established in another member state will meet no greater obstacle than a doctor established in Ireland and no Irish hospital can benefit from the obstacles placed in the path of women wishing to seek an abortion abroad. The Irish law is, therefore, compatible with Articles 59 and 60. Whatever its merits, the Commission said, the objective of preventing abortions belongs to the moral sphere, in relation to which member states remain free to pursue their own policies so long as these do not entail discrimination.

The Commission pointed out that in so far as the public policy exception provided for by the combined provisions of Article 56 and 66 of the Treaty was concerned, the policy pursued by Ireland with regard to abortion falls within that concept and furthermore, in a society which places an absolute value on life of a foetus, giving it the rank of human life, any conduct which threatens that life may be considered to affect the fundamental interest of society and justifies recourse to the concept of public policy.

Therefore, on the basis of what we know from the Grogan case, as dealt with by the European Court of Justice, there is no absolute right to information — the right, indeed, may be subject to appropriate conditions laid down in national law. It is apparent also that there is scope in the EC for the development of principles concerning the freedom to give or obtain information and that in the meantime member states may have a reasonable margin of discretion to decide what should or should not be permissible in their national laws.

The Solemn Declaration deals, in effect, with the argument that is made that the Protocol might nullify rights to information conferred by EC law. The declaration affirms that the Protocol protects freedom to obtain or make available in Ireland information relating to services lawfully available in member states but it provides, in addition, that the information may be subject to conditions which may be laid down in Irish legislation in conformity with Community law. As I have indicated, there is nothing unusual in the proposal that the giving and receiving of information should be regulated by law. Such laws already exist in other EC states. The Government's referendum proposal on information will enshrine in our Constitution the right to information, notwithstanding Article 40.3.3º and allow for legislation to regulate the matter.

There appears to be general agreement in the House and among public groups that the right to travel should not be restricted. The position about the right to information and counselling may be different and it will be important, therefore, to get a wide consensus on what should be permissible in that area.

Deputies will be aware that the Commission on the Status of Women have made a submission to the Government with particular reference to the ban on counselling and information deriving from the decisions of the Supreme Court having regard to Article 40.3.3º. The basic premise of the commission's statement to the Government is that women should have the right to avail of counselling and information as well as the right to travel. Since the commission made their submission the Government have been able to achieve the agreed interpretation among our EC partners that the Protocol to the Treaty on European Union protects the right of pregnant women not only to travel between EC states but to receive information in the State about services lawfully available in EC states. In addition, the Government have announced their intention to bring forward legislation to enable a referendum to be held on travel and information.

It would seem that not a great deal in the debate in the past few weeks has been said about our counselling services and their ability to cope with any new situation in the future. The fact, however, is that within the constraints which exist at present a great deal is being done by our counselling services and I should like to briefly comment on that aspect if only to emphasise that counselling services and the people who serve them are, on a daily basis, dealing with the special problems of people in crises.

The duration of a pregnancy is a difficult time for the woman concerned and we must do all that is possible to deal with the health and welfare of that person. Our health boards provide teams of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, community and social workers to deal with the many problems associated with pregnancy. In the event of changes being made in our laws on counselling and information, it is those doctors, and social workers we will be looking to to operate the new laws. In addition, we must not forget that there are voluntary agencies, many of them State aided, which provide counselling and information to pregnant women. I commend the dedication and professionalism of all these agencies and I have no doubt that their position and their views will be valued and taken into account in the framing of new laws on counselling and information.

The Government sub-committee is, as I have said, proceeding with their examination of all the issues with expedition so as to provide the Government with well considered recommendations which can then form the basis for appropriate decisions and action. That, in the Government's view, is the best way to proceed. I think most people would agree that the Government are acting responsibly in the matter and that they have a duty to consider carefully all the implications before committing the country to a referendum on amendments to our Constitution.

Since the outcome of the Supreme Court's judgment, the Government have sought to maintain cross party consensus on the issues. The Government are still convinced that the way to foster that is to wait until they are in a position to consult all parties on proposals that will deal comprehensively with the issues.

The Government would have wished, therefore, to see discussion on this Bill deferred until the Government proposals are made known. As I understand it, it is open to the Deputy to withdraw the motion on his Bill without prejudice to his right to move it at a later time. That is an option he might consider. The Government, as I said in my opening remarks, are unable to support the Bill at this time.

On a point of order, could the Tánaiste's script be circulated so that we might consider it in advance——

The Deputy appreciates that there is no Standing Order governing the distribution or preparation of scripts.

There is a convention and a courtesy in that regard.

The Deputy referred to Standing Orders; conventions and traditions are something else but the Chair——

I did not mention Standing Orders, I referred to a point of order.

Points of order refer to Standing Orders.

I will see what can be done.

I call Deputy Roche; he has nine minutes.

My contribution will be significantly less complex than the last two contributions, which were very thoughtful. I listened with great interest to Deputy Howlin's contribution. I compliment him on bringing forward the Bill because we should discuss exactly where we stand as a result of the extraordinary judgment by the Supreme Court in the case of X. The judgment shows the merits of caution, waiting until we have a clear view of where precisely we intend to go and how we will deal with the complex set of issues before us as a result of that judgment.

I accept the sincerity of the point made by Deputy Howlin. If I understood him correctly we agree that there should not be any controversy on the question of travel. However, the area of information is more complex and that complexity was dealt with, to a degree, by the Tánaiste. I will deal with it briefly now. When Article 40.3.3º was inserted in the Constitution I felt that there was a degree of clarity as to what precisely the people had decided at that time. In the nine years between the referendum and the delivery of the Supreme Court judgment, few would have guessed at the Supreme Court reaction to the presentation of the tragic facts in the X case. How many people in this House — or elsewhere — would have suggested that a judgment allowing a termination, albeit in a specific case, without any reference to a time consideration — a point dealt with by Deputy Howlin — would have arisen in a Supreme Court judgment? This aspect of the judgment — like other aspects — and failure to deal with the issue of time, struck me as extraordinary because nobody that I know would argue that there should be freedom of choice without some reference to time; it is a complex issue. However, whatever feelings we may have about the judgment, there is no point in wringing our hands. The judgment is now the law and we must deal comprehensively with it. The minimum we owe ourselves as a nation — the minimum we owe Irishwomen, the people who will have to bear the consequences of what will happen here now and in the months ahead — is to come forward with a comprehensive, thoughtful and workable response.

The judgment touched on or raised questions in three main areas — travel, information and, what is now coyly called in much of the debate, the substantive issue. I compliment Deputy Howlin on not using coy language. He dealt with the issues and the complexities which arise from the substantive issue in an honest way. As the Tánaiste said, there should be freedom to travel. What happens to a citizen of our State abroad is clearly beyond our legislative capacity and whatever feelings one might have about actions taken by a citizen while in another jurisdiction, it is not practical to attempt to legislate against such action. I am not just talking about actions in this case; a whole range of actions is involved. It is one of the more extraordinary situations which has come out of this series of events, that the issue of travel should be in question at all. The plain fact is that any resident on leaving the jurisdiction could involve more injunctions, even supervision of the person or detention of one kind or another. None of that would be acceptable to any right thinking person.

I am glad, therefore, that the Taoiseach indicated from a very early date, since the decision of the Supreme Court, that the Government do not wish to see the law being exercised in any way which prohibits the freedom to travel. I am pleased too that the Government have ensured, by way of agreement among EC partners under a Solemn Declaration, that rights of travel among member states are not affected by the Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty. Having said that, I accept the points which people make about the legal situation which flows from a solemn declaration and its legal infirmities or weaknesses.

The Government have indicated that there will be a referendum on travel — I welcome this — and that they appreciate the need to combine examination of that element with other elements of information, counselling and the substantive issue of abortion raised in Article 40.3.3º. Because of the seriousness and complexity of these issues, I share the Taoiseach's view that the Government must insist on being allowed to carry out a proper examination of all the elements before they can decide on the wording of amendments of the Constitution or the details of legislation. I do not believe that Deputy Howlin wishes the Government to be forced into precipitous action and, therefore, that we could find ourselves in ten years' time — as we now find ourselves — in the same situation, because, after all, 18 months or two years' consideration were given to the last wording. There was controversy, even at the last moment, as to the precise meaning and ten years later we have another, and entirely unexpected, situation flowing from it.

The Private Members' Bill could, clearly, not be accepted by the Government at this stage because such acceptance would pre-empt the work of the Government sub-committee which have been given the task of making comprehensive recommendations to the Government on the various issues. It would also pre-empt the Government's own deliberations on the basis of those recommendations and the deliberations which would be forced on this House later in the year.

The Government have also indicated that they propose to bring forward legislation to enable a referendum to be held on the freedom to give and obtain information, subject to conditions which may be laid down in legislation. The situation here is, if anything, more complex than the travel issue and potentially more divisive. The present law regarding information on abortion is based on the Supreme Court's interpretation of Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution in the two cases which the Tánaiste outlined, one in 1988, the Well Woman Centre case and the Grogan case in 1989. In the Well Woman Centre case, the Supreme Court held that there was no constitutional right to information about the availability of a service of abortion outside the State which, if availed of, would have the direct consequence of destroying the guaranteed right of life of the unborn in Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution.

The case is now under appeal before the European Court of Human Rights and the Government have conceded that information in cases covered by the Attorney General v. X is permissible. In the Grogan case, which was referred to by the High Court to the European Court of Justice, the European Court held that, while lawful abortion in a State constitutes a service within the meaning of the Treaty of Rome, it is not contrary to Community law for a member state in which abortion is forbidden — in this case Ireland — to prohibit student associations from distributing information about abortion services in another member state where the services in question have no involvement in the distribution of the information.

On appeal to the Supreme Court from the High Court decision in that case to refuse an injunction prohibiting the distribution of the information, the Supreme Court held that the distribution of the information was unconstitutional, having regard to Article 40.3.3º. The effect of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Attorney General v. X case is that abortion is lawful if, as a matter of probability, there is a real and substantial risk to the life — although not to the health — of the mother. In the view of the Supreme Court, an intention to commit suicide could amount to such a risk. The right in those circumstances to an abortion seems to imply a corresponding right to information. In cases not covered by the Supreme Court test the law would seem to be that there is no unqualified right to information. The constitutional prohibition on information under the decision of the Supreme Court in the Well Woman Centre and Grogan cases would apply in those cases.

It is clear, therefore, that any change in the law on information would have to be by way of amendment to the Constitution; there is no doubt about that. What information can and should be made available under legislation which would follow from an amendment to the Constitution is another issue. I have no doubt that this will be the basis of considerable thought, debate and controversy in the coming months.

While many would agree with the views expressed by one Government Member that a person travelling must at a minimum know where she is going, many would be less happy with the thought of blatantly promotional literature beig circulated without any limitation or control. It is one thing to make information available about a service that is lawful in another country but it is quite another matter to promote that service in a way that is alien to the values of the people of this country or in a way that runs contrary to the general ethos of the people as a whole. I do not suggest for one moment that that is what Deputy Howlin means.

My time has now run out. What I have tried to do is illustrate the complexity of the second layer of the issue, the information issue. Other than in Deputy Howlin's fine contribution, we have not even touched on the abortion issue itself.

There are three complex and interrelated issues arising from the Supreme Court decision in the case of the Attorney General v. X. I think that we owe it to ourselves to get it right on this occasion because it is clear that we did not get it right on the previous occasion.

In total I have 30 minutes to speak in this evening's debate. It is my intention, with the agreement of the House, to give ten minutes of that time to my colleague Deputy Nuala Fennell.

Is that proposal agreed to? Agreed.

I feel considerably ill at ease that this issue is being debated by only male Members of the House. It is an issue on which women should be heard. I look forward to hearing the comments of my colleague.

I should like to start off where Deputy Roche finished. He talked about what happened ten years ago and said that none of us anticipated recent events. While I do not wish to depart from the spirit of consensus, I have a certain irritation at the level of hypocrisy that falls across the floor of the House on occasion. As we address this issue in all seriousness, I do not think we should avoid making the point that the Fianna Fáil Party in the House on what was a difficult issue in 1982 and 1983 played an appalling game of cynical politics, and they knew they were playing it. It is not correct to say that no one anticipated that the consequences of the 1983 amendment could be what has come to pass.

Some of us campaigned against it.

Many Members of this House anticipated several consequences of what was an ill-judged and an ill-considered amendment to the Constitution. Some of us predicted that it would lay the foundation within our Constitution for legalising abortion. I was one of those who predicted that. Some of us predicted at an early part of 1983 that there would be a referendum that would be appallingly religiously divisive. That referendum was held. We were told by Members of the Fianna Fáil Party that the words ultimately included in our Constitution were written on tablets of stone that guaranteed that the life of the unborn would be protected. The Fianna Fáil Party, and their former spokesman on Justice, Deputy Woods, tried to steer clear from talking about the rights of women. Nevertheless, there was a gesture in the direction of women.

I hesitate to remind the Deputy——

I did not interrupt the Deputy, and I ask him not to interrupt me.

—— that it was his Taoiseach who agreed to hold the referendum in the first place.

There was always a possibility that that amendment could end up with the interpretation put on it by the High Court, the possibility being that women's rights would be entirely overridden in favour of a theoretical right to life of the unborn. I have always found it difficult to understand the way in which the overriding of the rights of a pregnant woman can simultaneously protect the life of the unborn child, whose very existence is dependent, in most cases, on the continued life of the pregnant woman. There was a possibility that the High Court decision arrived at could come about. In the end, the second possibility was the Supreme Court decision.

If we are going to talk about the substantive issue — which I am not going to address at great length this evening because it is not part of the Bill — those people outside the House who are running campaigns on that issue and those people within the House, within the Fianna Fáil Party, who talk obliquely, using the phrase "substantive issue", need be warned that on this side of the House we will not sacrifice the lives of women.

The Supreme Court judgment seemed to try to address the difficulty of having an equity of rights in circumstances in which the protection of life is not consistent with the preservation of another life. In laying down the real and substantial connection, the real and substantial danger or the real and substantial risk test, in my view the Supreme Court has struck the only logical balance that can be struck in dealing with a situation in which a mother's life is at risk. When I hear the Tánaiste, the Taoiseach and other Members of the Fianna Fáil Party talking about "addressing all the issues" my concern is not just that we will have presented in the House in the autumn a constitutional amendment dealing with travel and information but that we will have an unacceptable constitutional package that envisages not merely dealing with travel and information but also makes a presentation of a new form of wording that will ultimately have the effect of depriving women of protection when there is a real and substantial risk to their lives.

I do not believe that there is a legal framework that can be produced that would be acceptable, that would protect the lives of women while ensuring that pregnancies can be terminated in this country only in extremely limited circumstances. I do not believe that there is an alternative. I say to the Fianna Fáil Party: do not try to do again the kind of political job you did in 1983 in this House. Do not produce a package that is designed on one side to appease the so-called liberals, and I include myself within that category, to use the caricatures with which we are pinned — those who favour travel and information, and that is also designed to satisfy people who regard women as basically the carriers of babies, with no rights and no function beyond that. There is no such package that is acceptable.

I have a deep suspicion that the Fianna Fáil game plan is to get the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty through the House and, having got it through, to yet again run the pro-life issue in an election campaign. Of course, we are all pro-life. I am pro-life — I am "pro" the life of women, men, children, babies and the unborn when it can be protected. But I do recognise that there are grey areas in which choices have to be made on occasion.

The Fianna Fáil Party should not be allowed to produce a package in which they suggest that all of the Opposition parties — and the Progressive Democrats as well — are rabid abortionists and that Fianna Fáil are the only party interested in protecting the life of the unborn. I say to members of the Fianna Fáil Party that they should not rush out of this House and hold a false general election on that issue and try to label other parties and Members of the House as not being pro-life or not wanting to protect the unborn and as being advocates of abortion. The Fianna Fáil Party played that game in 1983. I do not believe that the electorate would again be fooled if that game were played. I am deeply concerned when I hear members of the Fianna Fáil Party talking about "packages".

When it comes to the right to travel and the right to information, those issues are very simple — they are not complex. The position where we stand today is the result of the inclusion in our Constitution of a provision that has been interpreted by our courts in a specific way. The solution is very simple. The reason I am worried is that the Government have been offered a variety of solutions. Unlike the events of 1983, when a Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government found themselves ambushed by Fianna Fáil Deputies hiding in the long grass on this issue, being not really interested in the issue, but seeking a cynical party political advantage——

Who was in Government in 1983?

——there is not a single Opposition Deputy hiding in the long grass on this issue, trying to ambush the Government. What we have been trying to do for weeks——

Is to play politics with us.

——is to offer constructive solutions to the Government to achieve resolution of their problems. Immediately following the Supreme Court judgment Deputy John Bruton, leader of the Fine Gael Party, at a meeting with the Taoiseach expressed to him the view that the way to resolve the travel and information difficulty was to hold a constitutional referendum on that issue and that such a referendum should take place fairly speedily. At that stage the Taoiseach continued to use his favourite phrase that all options were open, a phrase which has now descended into a sort of mantra that we hear on a regular basis. The Labour Party at that stage seemed confused as to where the issue was heading. I recall Deputy Spring on television saying that the last thing we wanted was a referendum. The Labour Party came around to the view, and I accept their sincerity in this, that a referendum is necessary.

We then offered the Government help. We suggested a form of wording to amend the Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty. The Government did not do their homework and could not get the European Community partners to agree to amend it. We raised with the Government the possibility of deleting the Protocol. We had a variety of responses. The Taoiseach said we could not delete it as that was the same as amending it, while at the same time Deputy Kitt was telling a group from the Council for the Status of Women that they had not seriously sought to secure agreement to deletion of the Protocol. We sought in the last week's debate by way of a Fine Gael motion on Second Stage to get agreement from this Government to address the travel and information issue in advance of the Maastricht Treaty. The Government voted against that. Fine Gael do not have any difficulty in supporting the Labour Party Bill before the House. The wording in that Bill reflects the type of wording we suggested to the Government in relation to the amendment to the Protocol. The wording adequately and properly deals with the travel and information issue. The wording in the Labour Party Bill would certainly allow for the constitutional difficulties arising from travel and information and the intertwining of the issues with Maastricht to be resolved. It is incomprehensible that the Government cannot support this measure. Their constant evasion of the issue raises very deep suspicions as to where at least the Fianna Fáil wing of Government are heading. I will not be quite as charitable to the Progressive Democrat wing of the Government as some people may wish to be.

Where are they?

They are not in the House participating in this debate. The public relations protestations by some members of the Progressive Democrats that if they thought women would be threatened they would resign from Government, do not hang very well with the failure of the Progressive Democrats to support the Fine Gael amendment last week or express support for the Labour Party Bill this week. There is a level of public relations hypocrisy hanging round the neck of the Progressive Democrats. They have not yet been sussed by the general public but the chickens will eventually come home to roost.

You have been sussed according to the poll.

In relation to the substantive issue, we have had a great deal of legal debate. In recent weeks I engaged in much of that. I suspect that at this stage many people go deaf, as it were, when they hear the legal debate on this issue. Deputy Howlin set out the legal background very well this evening. For some time the Government have been extremely confused about the legal background to this issue. I find it difficult to understand the level of Government confusion. That confusion has been such that at one stage we were told by the Taoiseach that the Protocol did not have to be amended. At a meeting with all the women Members of this House he said that the Protocol did not need to be amended but within a week he was saying the opposite. Then we had two weeks of deliberations as to the form of amendment and following that Deputy Andrews, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, came back from Europe and said he could not secure agreement for an amendment to the Protocol and that he has been offered a solemn declaration. During an RTE interview he said that a solemn declaration was of no legal value. Ten days later a solemn declaration was the new legal Utopia to solve the problem. We have heard more tonight about this Solemn Declaration. I put my views on the record of this House on this issue last Thursday so I do not propose to repeat my speech. Suffice it to say that whereas a solemn declaration can be looked at by the European Court in interpreting a treaty, a solemn declaration cannot distort the actual words contained in a treaty or Protocol. It is quite clear that if we vote for the Maastricht Treaty, which I am urging people to do, and we adopt the Protocol, the Maastricht Treaty will not become part of our law until January next and if by next January we have not addressed the travel and information issues within our Constitution, the Treaty will copperfasten the ban on travel and information. That is the reality as has been said before.

I took note of the promise made tonight by the Tánaiste when he said that it is common case, a basic premise of Government, that the right to travel and to have access to information and counselling should be made available. That is a solemn commitment by this Government to this House tonight and they must not try to step aside from that commitment no matter what the exigencies of political life in this State may be. The Government must bring into this House the legislation required next October to allow the necessary referendum to take place.

At the time of the 1983 amendment we were told that acceptance of the amendment would have the effect of preventing abortion and saving the lives of the unborn. I want to broaden the debate slightly because it has become somewhat legally sterile. That has been necessary to try to get the point home, but we are not talking about the problem, we are talking about legal forms and constitutions. We were told in 1983 that this was the way to save the lives of the unborn. In that year approximately 3,000 Irish women were going to the UK to have abortions. In 1992, ten years later over 4,000 Irish women a year go to England to have abortions. In what way has the amendment helped? What we need to do is to broaden this debate and move away from sterile discussions of legal forms and constitutional amendments. We cannot solve social problems by constitutional amendment.

We have an extraordinary hang up here with legislation and legal forms. We pass an Act or put something in our Constitution and, by virtue of that, say the problem is resolved. Of course, the social reality is the exact opposite of what the legislation says or what the Constitution exhorts people to do. Many of us for some years have avoided getting back into this debate in the detail which is required. I suppose many Members of this House, including myself, are the walking wounded of 1983. Many of us still bear the scars of that debate.

I would say to Mr. William Binchy and to Senator Hanafin that they have done enough damage. I would expect that they would at this stage have stayed out of this debate, that they would have had the decency to recognise their mistakes and stay off the public stage on this issue. I hope they will stay off it, or get off it now. I find it extraordinary that those gentlemen who are so hung up on legal forms and constitutional amendments rarely talk about the social problems. We want to tackle the problem of unwanted pregnancies. We want to tackle the problem of abortion but what we need to start looking at is our education system, at how we are educating children for life, at the question of what we are doing in the schools.

When, for instance, will we deal with the family planning legislation? This Government have been kicking to touch on that for 12 months now. They will not deal with it. When will we take the action necessary to provide better social supports and understanding for women with unwanted pregnancies so that they do not feel they have to leave this country to terminate those pregnancies? When will we do that instead of talking about legal forms and constitutional amendments? When will we recognise that for every women who has an unwanted pregnancy, there is a man who bears the responsibility for that pregnancy? This is not just a woman's issue. It is about men and women. It is about men facing up to their responsibility as well as being about women being provided with the understanding and support they require when an unwanted pregnancy occurs.

I find it extraordinary that, at about this time last year, I was being attacked by some social workers because I was endeavouring to provide, by legislation, for the recognition of Romanian adoptions in Ireland, when Irish couples were going off to Romania to try to save children many of whom would not have lived through last winter had they not been adopted by Irish couples. Now I am being attacked — having been involved last year in what I think was a very worthwhile legislative proposal that has benefited many children — by some of the more fundamentalist groups for wanting to murder babies. Political life is very confusing.

What I want to do is recognise the social reality of our problems. If the Government are talking about addressing the totality of the issue they should not just address it in legal form, in constitutional form, or by way of new legislation. They should bring into this House a social action programme backed by the necessary finance and by an education programme so as to ensure that those at risk do not have unwanted pregnancies or, whenever unwanted pregnancies happen, the social supports should be available so as to at least encourage Irish women not to go abroad to terminate their pregnancies. When we do that we will truly be pro-life.

Debate adjourned.