SF pushing for abortion legislation 'by autumn'
Sinn Féin would like to see new abortion laws introduced before a general election - even though the party's own policy won't be decided until June.
Launching her party's 'Repeal the Eighth' campaign, Mary Lou McDonald said there should be no delays in bringing forward an abortion regime if the referendum is passed.
While she did not put a precise deadline for the enactment of new legislation, Ms McDonald said: "I would like to think that you would have law on the books by early autumn. I think you are into election territory potentially and so on if we start slipping into Budget time and beyond...."
The party is currently opposed to the 12-week regime being proposed by the Government, but is holding a special conference in June to discuss its policy.
The leader admitted that some within the party were against the current proposals but added there was "time and space" to debate it.
She said 12 weeks was "challenging for some people".
At an event in Dublin's Temple Bar, Ms McDonald said: "I am the mother of two children, including a teenage daughter, and I want them to grow up in a compassionate, open and caring Ireland, an Ireland that doesn't punish tragedy, an Ireland that doesn't turn its back on its women and girls.
"I want my daughter and her friends to live in an Ireland where they can make decisions about their own healthcare," she said.
Meanwhile, the LoveBoth campaign welcomed a commitment from Health Minister Simon Harris to take part in a public debate. Spokesperson Cora Sherlock said: "Now that the Health Minister, Simon Harris, has agreed to participate in a debate on his plans for abortion on demand, it's up to him to name the time, date and the place and we will see him there."
She said the No side had been "flooded with questions from around the country that people wish us to put to the minister".
"These include questions from doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and GPs who are all in the dark regarding what the minister has planned.
"There is a huge desire for answers about what Minister Harris has in store for the country if he introduces abortion on demand."
Ms Sherlock said: "Irish people deserve to hear their public representatives defend proposals which have far-reaching consequences. Sadly, this has not happened in the Dáil."
RTÉ's 'Late Late Show' will hold the first major television debate of the referendum tonight. Representatives of the Together For Yes and LoveBoth campaigns will be in studio, as well as people who will tell their own personal stories.