Kenny has doubts on outcome of abortion referendum
Published 12/01/2016 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed doubt about whether an abortion referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would be passed.
Mr Kenny said he expects it would take a couple of years to reach the point where a referendum could be held.
However a spokesman for Mr Kenny later sought to clarify his comment saying: "What the Taoiseach was referring to was the process (of a citizen's convention). He was not giving an overt commitment that a referendum would take place."
Asked for his personal views on the abortion issue, Mr Kenny said he is unsure whether the public would opt to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn.
"You can't just remove an article from the Constitution. You have to have the support of the people. I think if that were put to the people today, the result would be unclear," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach made the remarks after the Irish Independent revealed that fewer than one in four Fine Gael TDs are in favour of changing the law to allow for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
Seven TDs who responded to the survey said they are opposed to any change whatsoever, while 15 said they are in favour. Some 30 deputies would not give their position or said they have not yet made up their minds.
Speaking at a Fine Gael event in Dublin yesterday, Mr Kenny described cases of fatal foetal abnormality, incest and rape as "very, very difficult situations".
He said the issue will be dealt with comprehensively and sensitively by a citizen's convention. "I've set out the strategy on that. Without being presumptuous about the result of the election, but if elected to government, we will set up a constitutional convention, assembly or whatever, to look at this in a really sensitive and comprehensive fashion," Mr Kenny told reporters.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Joan Burton also insisted the Labour Party intends to address the abortion issue if returned to government, adding that her party has always been opposed to the Eighth Amendment.
"We were opposed to it being included in the Constitution in the first place so we have had a long-standing position that it doesn't best serve the interests of women or indeed of the wider Irish society," she said. She estimated it would take up to 18 months for the issue to be examined by experts, prior to a referendum.