Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Ireland's abortion laws are too restrictive and need to be liberalised', says Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

David Raleigh

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he believes Ireland's abortion laws are "too restrictive and need to be liberalised".

Attending a jobs announcement in Limerick, Mr Varadkar was asked about Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin's outlining of his position on abortion in the Dail on Thursday and if he will now do the same.

In response, Mr Varadkar said: "I've always said I believe this is a very personal and private issue, and that I want there to be a respectful debate over the next number of months."

"I've said before that I believe our laws are too restrictive and need to be reformed and need to be liberalised, and of course, that requires a change to the constitution.

"But, part of leadership is (to listen), and I want to listen to public opinion; the citizens assembly; my own party members; and also listen to the debate in the Dáil and Seanad.

"I know I've a particular responsibility as Taoiseach to make sure that the wording - the actual question that we put to the people - is the right one; that it's sound; and that it isn't going to be open to interpretation or challenge because it is a question that I, as Taoiseach and as government, will put to the people, so I want to actually know what that question is, before asking people to say yes or no to it," he added.

In the Dáil on Thursday Mr Martin said he was in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and allowing abortion up to 12 weeks.

“Nobody can dispute the fact that thousands of Irish women have an abortion every year”, he told the Dail.

He said these operations caused “deep trauma” and were “hidden” and could therefore have a significant impact on health and well-being on women.

The Cork South Central TD admitted that up until now he has been on record as being against abortion but his position has since evolved.

“Over the years I have been on the record as being against a significant change in our abortion laws.  I have done so from a belief that this was the most effective way of affirming the importance of the unborn” , he told the chamber.

He added that "if the facts become clearer, if we come to understand properly the impact of a policy on others, then we must be willing to act accordingly”.

Mr Martin said “the Eighth Amendment does not mean that Ireland is a country without abortion".

Mr Varadkar was also asked when any wording for the proposed referendum would be made public and he said he was waiting for advice from the Attorney General before putting a specific question to Cabinet. He added he expected the public to know the wording of the proposed referendum "in a matter of weeks".

Online Editors

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