The Passing by Seanad Eireann of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill

Twenty-one years after the X case, the enactment of the Protection of Life legislation is a significant landmark.

That said, what the Oireachtas has done tonight is no more than should be expected of us: to give expression in statute to a constitutional right – one that cannot be disputed to exist – and in doing so, to provide a procedure through which that right may be exercised.

During the course of the debate, it was said that this was all about satisfying a Labour Party manifesto commitment. Of course, this is not about any one party, but I am deeply proud of what has been done tonight, and pleased that this commitment has been honoured, with very considerable cross-party support in both Houses, and by such an overwhelming majority.

This issue has always been one that relates principally to women’s lives. I believe strongly that it is also an issue of women’s rights. Many women – and men – are disappointed that more could not have been done in this legislation. But we must honestly accept, irrespective of our point of view, that what has now been enacted by the Oireachtas is no more, and no less than what the people have provided for in their Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court some 21 years ago in the X case.

For any further changes to occur will require an amendment to the Constitution, which can only be done by the people in a referendum. I believe there is a strong case for such a referendum in the future – in the not too-distant future, I hope.

Any change will be for the people to decide. For now, as legislators, we have done our duty by the people.