Abortion campaign set to 'be very close' - minister
The abortion referendum will take place on May 25 and is likely to be "very close", Health Minister Simon Harris predicted yesterday.
"I'm sure it will be a close referendum campaign. Often referendum campaigns in Ireland are very close", he said as he joined Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy to formally announce details of the ballot.
"It's only kicking off. I would imagine you'll have conversations round kitchen tables and in the privacy of sitting rooms."
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney's ill-fated demand for a two-thirds 'super majority' for any future changes to the abortion laws is continuing to backfire.
Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin said: "The waters were muddied, and they didn't have to be".
Mr Harris denied the Tánaiste's position has damaged the cohesion of the Cabinet on the matter.
"This is not about any one politician. Simon Coveney has played his part, and it's now time for the Irish people to have their say", said the minister.
Mr Coveney supports a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and no longer opposes the proposal that abortions be allowed up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy without restriction as to the reason for the termination.
Respective campaigns for both sides of the argument are now well under way.
A special event with the Together For Yes group, which is calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, was launched by Master of Holles Street Maternity Hospital Rhona Mahony.
Dr Mahony outlined her support for the Government's legislation in the case of the referendum passing, and, in particular, when an abortion is to be performed to protect the health of a mother.
"We will do everything we can to save" the baby, in cases of abortions where the foetus is viable, said Dr Mahony.
According to the proposed legislation, no gestation limit will apply for terminating a pregnancy when there is a serious risk to the health of a mother.
In these cases, everything will be done to incubate and save the life of the baby after the termination occurs as essentially the pregnancy will be ended by the early delivery of the baby.
"We come across this and have babies saved at 24 weeks", in cases where intervention was required to save the life of a woman, said Dr Mahony.
She added that as medical advances develop, babies' lives will be saved even earlier.
She was joined by Doctor Mark Murphy, of Doctors For Choice, who has joined the Together For Yes campaign.
Dr Murphy said 5,000 abortions take place a year for Irish women, many of whom are travelling abroad.
Included in that number are the thousands of women accessing the abortion pill from unauthorised vendors.
Dr Murphy admitted that there would be capacity issues for GPs providing the tablets for women, due to the shortage of GPs in Ireland.
However, he insisted it would be possible, nonetheless.
The Save The 8th campaign will be formally launched today at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin.
The total electorate of the Republic of Ireland is currently around 3.2million.
On May 25, polls will open at 7am and close at 10pm.