Saturday 26 May 2018

Assembly vote for abortion 'not by chance', argues chair

Justice Mary Laffoy at the Citizens’ Assembly in The Grand Hotel, Malahide, in March. Photo: Tony Gavin
Justice Mary Laffoy at the Citizens’ Assembly in The Grand Hotel, Malahide, in March. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Citizens' Assembly's vote for a liberal abortion regime was not "by chance or accident", the chairperson of the body will say.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy will today defend the work of the assembly while admitting the results of its consultations on the Eighth Amendment "caused surprise across some sections of society".

A majority of assembly members recommended that the termination of pregnancy without restriction should be lawful in Ireland.

Ms Justice Laffoy is set to be the first witness to appear before a cross-party Committee on the Eighth Amendment today.

The committee, chaired by Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, is tasked with advising the Dáil on what proposition should be put to a referendum next year.

In her submission, seen by the Irish Independent, Ms Justice Laffoy says the 99 members of the assembly undertook their work with the "utmost seriousness and dedication and carried it out with exceptional maturity, compassion and respect, which is not always present in this debate".

"I am aware that the results caused surprise across some sections of society, but I truly believe they were reached not by chance or accident but following a thorough and rational thought process each member undertook as they stepped up to the ballot box," she will say.

"Each vote was underpinned by expert evidence received from 25 professionals across 80 hours of active assembly participation. This in turn was supplemented by hours of preparatory work on behalf of the members reading papers and submissions."

Last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated he did not believe the country was ready for the regime proposed by the assembly.

"I honestly don't know if the public would go as far as what the Citizens' Assembly has recommended.

Ms Justice Laffoy says the committee will have to carefully consider all of the evidence and she does not "underestimate the difficult task" facing the politicians.

Irish Independent

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