THE Oireachtas hearings on abortion have been moved to the Seanad chamber because of the huge interest in the contentious issue.
The Oireachtas Health Committee starts its abortion hearings next month, and it will be moved from the normal committee rooms of Leinster House. As many as 40 members of the Oireachtas could turn up to the hearings. Although the committee's membership is restricted to 15 TDs and six senators, any Oireachtas member is entitled to turn up and question witnesses.
The hearings will be broadcast live on the internet and on the Oireachtas TV station on the UPC cable network.
Fine Gael senator Paul Bradford first raised the possibility of using the Seanad earlier this month, and committee chairman Jerry Buttimer confirmed that the initial three hearings, and possibly more, will be held in the Upper House.
"We'll see how it goes for the first three days before we decide if we need it for longer," Mr Buttimer, a TD for Cork South-Central, said.
The first two days will be given over to witnesses from medical and legal professions, with the final day reserved for the churches and advocacy groups.
Before Christmas, the Government outlined plans to legislate and regulate for abortion in cases where there is a threat to the life of the mother – including the highly contentious issue of the threat of suicide.