Joe McHugh to adopt a similar stance to Tánaiste Simon Coveney on abortion referendum

The Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh is to adopt a similar stance to Tánaiste Simon Coveney on the abortion referendum.

The Donegal TD was widely reported to be opposed to repealing the Eighth Amendment – but will now back changes to existing laws.

However, he will stop short of supporting abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.

In a short statement released to Ocean FM today, Deputy Joe McHugh confirmed that having informed himself over the past few weeks on the issue and having spoken to health professionals in both Ireland and in Britain, he will be supporting the holding of a referendum.

However he said he does retain concerns over the Oireachtas Committee proposal for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks and that he will examine Minister Harris’s proposals when they are published.

Sources said the attitude being taken by the Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Mr McHugh is likely to be followed by other Fine Gael TDs.

There are now essentially three different approaches being within the Fine Gael party. The first is led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris who back widespread reform.

Mr Coveney is now viewed as a middle-ground leader for people with conflicting views on the issue. He believes reform is necessary but not on the scale being proposed.

There are also a number TDs, including junior minister Patrick O’Donovan, who believe the Eighth Amendment should be retained.

Meanwhile in the Northwest, eight out of the nine TD’s have now made public what their position is on abortion.

Fianna Fail Deputies Charlie McConalogue, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Eamon Scanlon and Marc McSharry are all against repealing the eighth.

Sinn Fein TD’s Pearse Doherty and Martin Kenny support repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but do not support unrestricted abortion at this time.

Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle said he supports both repeal and the 12 week option.

Sligo/Leitrim Fine Gael TD Tony McLaughlin is now the only Deputy who has not made public what his stance is on abortion.