Politicians Expect Abortion Referendum in 2018


Politicians from all parties believe that a referendum on abortion is inevitable following the Citizens’ Assembly recommendation of sweeping changes to Ireland’s abortion laws.


Ministers said the process set out in the programme for government will be followed, under which the Assembly’s recommendations will be passed to a special Oireachtas committee for consideration.


The setting up of this committee could be delayed by a wrangle between the Dáil and the Seanad over the numbers from each House to serve on the new body. Before Easter the Seanad nominated seven members to the committee, rather than the four which had been expected. The expanded size of the committee means Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil combined will not command a majority, as both parties had envisaged.


The name of Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, who shepherded the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill through the Oireachtas Health Committee, has been floated as a possible chairman.


Other likely members of the committee include Fianna Fáil TDs Billy Kelleher, Lisa Chambers, Anne Rabbitte and James Browne; Independent TD Mattie McGrath, Independents4Change TD Clare Daly and Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan.


Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that there should be a referendum next year, but that legislation governing abortion – to be implemented after the referendum – would need to be published before the vote.


Despite the recommendation from the Assembly for a complete liberalisation of the law of abortion, allowing for abortion on request, the thinking of many people in both Government and the Oireachtas generally is that a more limited liberalisation of the law is both preferable and more likely to be endorsed by the electorate.


Privately, many senior political figures are sceptical that a referendum to enable the introduction of abortion on request would pass in a referendum, despite the vote at the Citizens’ Assembly.

The Irish Times. April 25.

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