FINE Gael TD Dan Neville will not face any party disciplinary action despite missing the late night vote on the controversial ‘suicide clause’ in the Government’s abortion legislation.
Mr Neville was absent from the Dail chamber when a vote on preserving section nine of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was carried in the early hours of July 11. Mr Neville has denied rumours that he was asleep in his office at the time, insisting instead that he arrived at the chamber too late and was locked out.
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe has told the Limerick Leader that there is “no question” of Mr Neville facing censure as he accepts Mr Neville’s explanation for missing the vote.
The vote on keeping section nine in the bill, which was carried by 135 votes to 24, took place at approximately 2am during a marathon debate on amendments to the controversial law.
Mr Neville, who is an active campaigner on mental health issues and suicide prevention, said that he failed to cast a vote for the ‘suicide clause’ as he arrived at the chamber just as the doors were being locked. “I was working in my office, and when I went down the doors were just closed. I’ve seen it happen before, especially in the order of business. It happened to a couple of other people too.”
When asked to comment on rumours that he actually missed the vote as he was asleep in his office at the time, Mr Neville laughed and said that his was “not true at all, not at all”.
The late night debate on proposed amendments to the legislation, which ran into the early hours of July 11, attracted significant public criticism amid suggestions that some TDs had been drinking and behaving inappropriately while dealing with the extremely sensitive issue. The “horseplay” of Fine Gael TD for Cork East Tom Barry, who pulled his party colleague Aine Collins on to his lap in the Dail chamber during the session, drew international criticism.
After missing the vote on the ‘suicide clause’ Mr Neville was present in the chamber for the next vote in the late night order of business, which saw a number of proposed amendments to the bill defeated by 124 votes to 19.
Mr Neville said that he spoke to Mr Kehoe later that day and apologised for missing the vote. “I apologised to the chief whip, and he just said ‘don’t worry, these things happen’. There was never a danger [of the vote not passing]”.
Mr Kehoe said that he accepts that Mr Neville “was locked out of the chamber”, and that there is “no question” of him being disciplined by the party. Mr Kehoe said that Mr Neville was not alone in missing one of the votes during the same session, as Fine Gael TDs John Paul Phelan and Tom Hayes were similarly locked out of the chamber for the next vote.
Meanwhile, Mr Neville said that his recent appointment to the Oireachtas Health Committee will be an opportunity to further his work on mental health issues. Mr Neville has been appointed to the committee following the removal of Roscommon TD Denis Naughten, who lost his post following his vote against the abortion bill.
Mr Neville sat on the committee up until the 2011 general election, and previously chaired a sub-committee on suicide.
“I had been on that committee up to the last election, and had been on it for over a decade. Obviously it’s an opportunity for me to enhance the work I’m doing in ensuring there are resources for mental health services and suicide prevention”, he said.