Socialist Party councillor Mick Barry this morning said that last night’s meeting of Cork City Council had been “shut down” in an “extraordinary fashion” by Fine Gael Lord Mayor John Buttimer with the result that four motions on the abortion question had not been debated and posed the question as to whether Cllr Buttimer had made the decision without advice or whether he had discussed the issue in advance with others.
He said: “The Government are under enormous pressure to legislate for ‘X’ and clearly Fine Gael are disunited on this issue. While I have no illusions that Cork City Council passing motions on this issue would have greatly increased the pressure on the Government it clearly wouldn’t have subtracted from it and Cllr Buttimer’s extraordinary actions have to be seen in this light. The question this morning is whether he acted alone or whether he discussed the matter in advance with colleagues either in the Fine Gael council group or higher up in the party hierarchy.”
The four motions on the abortion issue had been submitted by councillors from the Socialist Party, the Workers’ Party, Sinn Fein and Labour.
Cllr Barry completely rejected claims made by the Lord Mayor that councillors had agreed to end the meeting at the time he guillotined debate (9pm). Councillors had agreed to extend the meeting to that time. What normally happens at this point is that the Council decides whether to extend further or to finish proceedings. No such decision was taken by the Council last night, Cllr Buttimer merely announced the end of proceedings, rang the bell and exited the chamber. Given the strong feelings in the city in the wake of the death of Savita Halapannavar and given the fact that no less than four motions on this issue were on the agenda, Cllr Buttimer can have been under no illusions as to the import of his actions.