India's Ambassador to Ireland Debashish Chakravarti met the Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Friday and conveyed New Delhi’s concerns over Savita Halappanavar’s death as Dublin assured that it was “committed to establishing the full circumstances and facts” of the case which has caused outrage across Ireland amid growing calls for a review of the country’s archaic anti-abortion law.
The meeting, which lasted 30 minutes, came as anger spread with protests being held in Belfast in Northern Ireland ahead of a massive rally planned by pro-choice campaigners in Dublin on Saturday.
Ms. Halappanavar (31), a dentist, died from septicaemia after she was refused abortion by doctors at a government hospital despite apparent risk to her life.
Brian Hayes, a junior minister, admitted that Ireland had suffered reputational damage as a result of the controversy. Health Minister James Reilly promised that the two inquiries ordered into Ms. Halappanavar’s death—one by the Galway University Hospital where she died and the other by Ireland’s health service—would stand up to international scrutiny.
Mr. Reilly said Ms. Halappanavar’s family was “entitled to know as quickly as possible what the facts of the situation were” and they would not have to wait “one minute longer” than necessary.
“I know this is an extremely difficult and traumatic time for them and I don't want to see either of the investigations delay one minute longer than they have to and leave this family in doubt as to what really happened,,” he said.
Responding to criticism of lack of clarity around abortion laws, Mr. Reilly said the government was “digesting” an expert group’s report on the issue.
He acknowledged that it was important to clarify the circumstances under which it was permissible to terminate a pregnancy.
Earlier, Mr. Chakravarti told RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, that Ms. Halappanavar’s death was a matter of deep regret to the Indian people and that he hoped the investigations would be completed quickly.
In another newspaper interview, he said the incident had caused great pain and anguish among the Indian community in Ireland but he insisted that it would not affect the relations between the two countries which he described as “extremely cordial.”
Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny said his government would respond by November 30 to a European Court of Human Rights ruling calling for reforms to abortion laws.
The government faced criticism for not legislating on a 1992 court ruling that abortion could be permitted if there was a “real and substantive” risk to the life of the mother.
Special Correspondent from New Delhi writes:
The mounting public outrage over the death of an Indian woman after she was denied abortion by doctors in Ireland forced the Ministry of External Affairs to summon the Irish Ambassador on Friday and convey the “concern and angst in Indian society at the untimely and tragic death.”
Echoing some of the views expressed in the country, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told journalists: “Saving the life of the mother is of prime importance, if you can’t save the life of the child.”
M. Ganapathi, Secretary (West), summoned Ambassador Feilim McLaughlin and told him that India hoped the inquiry into the death would be independent.
He said India was unhappy that a young life had come to an untimely end and hoped the Indian Ambassador in Dublin would be regularly updated on the progress of the probe.