Costly condom tax increases risk of crisis pregnancy
Government coffers are benefiting from a 13.5pc VAT levy on condoms - despite a pledge to make contraceptives more affordable to cut down on abortions.
Both Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and his predecessor Michael Noonan have refused to remove the VAT on condoms.
It pushes up the price of a packet of 12 of the contraceptives to €19, making them an expensive product for many young people.
The added hike in condoms comes against a background of unwanted pregnancies as well as a worrying rise in sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Health Minister Simon Harris, who is supporting the wider availability of abortion, has said better access to contraception will be looked at but it will have to first go to a working group.
The proposal is part of a package of measures put forward in advance of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
If it is repealed this will open the way to liberalising abortion law here, putting pressure on the Government to reduce the rate of crisis pregnancy.
When Michael Noonan was finance minister, he resisted pressure to scrap the tax.
He said removing the 13.5pc VAT on condoms would not lower the rate of sexually transmitted infections.
He claimed it would not have a significant impact on sexual behaviour.
It was turned down again last October after a series of pre-Budget submissions.
In 2008, the-then Fianna Fáil government reduced VAT on condoms from 21pc, one of the highest in Europe.
Since then various groups including the HSE's Crisis Pregnancy Agency and the Irish Family Planning Association have asked for its complete removal but the request has been ignored.
A VAT reduction would also help charities who distribute free condoms to at-risk groups.
A spokesman for the Revenue Commissioners said it was not possible to provide a figure showing the tax yield from condoms.
Ireland has been recently described as being in the middle of a HIV crisis as the number of those infected by the disease continues to rise.
An average of 10 new diagnoses per week were recorded in 2017 for the second year in a row.
If this trend continues, the country is likely to experience one of the highest numbers of new HIV diagnoses on record.
The Union of Students Ireland has had to team up with the HSE to launch a safer sex campaign.
More than 5,200 people aged between 15 and 24 were diagnosed with either chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or genital herpes last year.
This amounts to an 11pc increase in sexually transmitted infections compared to 2016 figures.
In 2017, there were 5,200 cases of young people diagnosed with these diseases including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital herpes.
The high price of condoms and the costs involved in having to see a GP to renew a prescription for other contraceptives have been cited as reasons why young people can end up not taking protection and having an unwanted pregnancy.