Sunday 24 March 2019

Taoiseach warns referendum on Eighth Amendment would fail if held this year

Enda Kenny. Picture: Arthur Carron
Enda Kenny. Picture: Arthur Carron
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has warned that a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would fail if it was held as early as October.

He said that a vote to get rid of the law that gives equal status to the life of a woman and her unborn child would not pass until the public knew what would replace it.

Mr Kenny was responding to criticism from AAA-PBP Deputy Ruth Coppinger who argued that the government’s planned citizens’ assembly to discuss the Eighth Amendment is a “delaying tactic”.

He said he will be bringing a memo to Cabinet next week to start the process of setting up the assembly.

Ms Coppinger said it is “unbelievable” that the government is continuing with the idea given the “stern rebuke” delivered by the United Nations last week.

The UN Human Rights Committee found that a women, Amanda Mellet - who was told by doctors that her foetus would die in the womb or shortly after birth - was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment due to Ireland’s abortion laws.

Ms Coppinger said the Eighth Amendment has been discussed for many years and that consensus already exists on the matter.

“The consensus has always been to get the Eighth Amendment out of the constitution because it never should have been put there in the first place,” she said.

Mr Kenny responded saying: “I think if you were to say ok let’s have a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in October, my view is that it would not be passed.

“And I’ll tell you why – because there needs to be a real discussion here and people would want to know if you’re going to attempt to take that out of the constitution what are you going to replace it with.

“It’s a very genuine question.

“It’s one I’ve had problems with myself.

“So I don’t accept from you at all, with respect, that this is a case of where you make a rush to judgement because this sensitive and distressing case has come from the UN Committee”.

He added that it’s “right and proper” to have the citizen’s assembly to reflect on the Eighth Amendment.

“This matter divided Irish society for over 30 years. Believe me it’s not a question of a lack of courage it’s a question of understanding that the entire population have a responsibility and a role in this.

“But it is not as simple as saying have a referendum,” he said.

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