Monday 5 December 2016

O'Connell would like vote on the Eighth 'tomorrow'

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

Kate O’Connell with her sister Therese Newman, who is her parliamentary assistant, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Kate O’Connell with her sister Therese Newman, who is her parliamentary assistant, at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell has said she would like to see a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment "tomorrow".

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But she conceded that she can't argue with the holding of a citizen's convention to discuss the matter first, saying politicians with more experience "obviously think it's a good idea".

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who is in favour of repealing the amendment that gives equal status to the life of a woman and her unborn child, has predicted that a vote on the Eighth Amendment won't happen until the end of 2017.

Read more: Taoiseach warns referendum on Eighth Amendment would fail if held this year

Ms O'Connell believes Ms Zappone is being realistic, and said she is in favour of a "rational and reasonable" discussion, which the citizen's convention could provide. However, she added that it was "small comfort to the 70 a week travelling", referring to women going to Britain for abortions.

Asked if she was disappointed that the referendum isn't happening sooner, she replied: "I wish it could happen tomorrow but that's not possible... These things have to run their course. And if a citizen's convention is what has been decided is the best course of action by the Taoiseach, well, I have to accept that."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he doesn't believe a referendum on the Eighth Amendment would pass if it was held as early as October this year.

He said that there first needs to be a debate around what would replace it and pledged to bring a memo to Cabinet next week to establish the citizen's convention.

Read more: 'Abortion drone' to bring pills over the border in 'act of solidarity'

Ms O'Connell said she's not opposed to the idea of the convention debating the issue, adding: "I think those that have more experience than I do obviously think it's a good idea. So I can't really argue with that."

The first-time TD said: "The worst thing we could do is to rush into something because if it's rushed into and it's not done right it'll be a No vote and we will continue exporting the problem."

She said she believes abortion should be a woman's choice albeit with strict term limits. She said her position is it should be "free, safe and legal and, to quote Doctors for Choice, 'as early as possible and as late as necessary'".

Earlier, Independent minister Ms Zappone told Newstalk Radio that the "most optimistic prediction" would be that a referendum could be held by the end of 2017. She said: "It's a red line issue for me that this Government would deal with it."

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she is in favour of a citizen's convention. "I'm always concerned about the number of women traveling to England for a crisis pregnancy, and for the situations that [these] women find themselves in. It's extremely traumatic."

Irish Independent

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