Wednesday 16 January 2019

Attorney General will deliberate on Supreme Court’s findings before advising Government on Abortion Referendum Bill

Attorney General Seamus Woulfe
Attorney General Seamus Woulfe
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed the Attorney General has been given the rest of today to consider the Supreme Court’s finding that the unborn does not have rights outside the right to life in the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Varadkar said he has spoken with Attorney General Seamus Woulfe today about the court’s rejection of part of a High Court judgment. Mr Woulfe asked the Taoiseach for an opportunity to consider the finding today before offering advice to cabinet.

There will be a special cabinet meeting tomorrow where Mr Varadkar said he hopes the Government will be able to formulate a Referendum Bill to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow.

He said he also hopes the Dáil would sit on Friday, if necessary, to debate the Bill before the St Patrick’s Day recess next week.

Responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald during Leaders’ Questions Mr Varadkar said he was keen to make sure there were no delays in holding a referendum but added he wanted to make sure no mistakes were made when tackling such a sensitive issue.

“The Attorney General has asked for the remains of the day to study the judgement. I have agreed to that request and Cabinet will meet tomorrow at 11am to discuss the Bill and I think the Business Committee will meet after that meeting to determine how we will hopefully debate the bill tomorrow and possibly on Friday if necessary,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone can accuse me of causing any unnecessary delays as Taoiseach but if the Attorney General asks for a day to consider the findings of the judgement he will get it.”

Ms McDonald said she was keen to see the Bill brought before the Dáil tomorrow and for the house to sit for debates tomorrow night. The Dáil is not due to sit on Friday but she is among a cohort of TD’s calling for an extra day this week.

The Supreme Court Judgement removes a potentially significant stumbling block to the staging of a Referendum before the end of May.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke said it was the unanimous view of the Supreme Court that the unborn does not have rights outside the right to life in the Eighth Amendment.

Delivering judgment this morning he said the court also found that the unborn was not considered to be a child for the purposes of Article 42A of the constitution, introduced with the passing of the children’s rights referendum in 2012.

Had the High Court findings been upheld, even if the amendment were to be repealed later this year, it was considered conceivable legal challenges aiming at safeguarding the unborn could be mounted.

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