Friday 21 July 2017

Taoiseach anticipates vote on Eighth Amendment - but doubts referendum would pass

Taoiseach: Enda Kenny Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach: Enda Kenny Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has expressed doubt whether a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would be passed.

Mr Kenny said he anticipates that a vote on the divisive issue will take place over the next “couple of years” if Fine Gael is returned to power.

It is the firmest commitment yet from Mr Kenny that a referendum will take place.

But asked for his personal views on the issue, the Fine Gael leader said he is unsure whether the public would choose 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 it was 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, while 15 said they are in favour. Thirty deputies would not give their position or said they either have not made up their minds.

Speaking at a Fine Gael event in Dublin, 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 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,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Joan Burton also insisted the Labour Party intends to address the abortion issue, 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.

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