HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly told the Dail tonight the issue of abortion will be dealt with quickly and said TDs must finally deal "with a long overdue responsibility".
But there is still no clear timeframe on when a Government decision will be made, which is being seen as a blow to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.
Speaking on the Dail debate on a Sinn Fein motion calling for legislation, Dr Reilly said: "I'm sure that all of you in this room share my view that's in incumbent upon us a public representatives to take action to deal with a long overdue responsibility.
"We need to make sure that we take the necessary action to protect the lives of women. However, these are extremely complex matters and deserve thoughtful consideration from a clinical and legal perspective.
"I look forward to hearing from all sides of the house on the many views in relation to this very difficult issue that has divided not just the country, but indeed families, over the last 20 years."
Labour Waterford TD Ciara Conway, who had refused to say which way she would vote, is now expected to back the Government's counter motion.
She made a forceful speech accusing politicians over the last 20 years of "colluding" in making already difficult circumstances unbearable for pregnant women by failing to pass abortion legislation.
"Many of us who have been advocates for women's health have always expected that our restrictive and inhumane abortion regime would someday result in the death of a woman," she said.