'Repeal of Eighth vital to equality of women' - Zappone
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone warned that Ireland can only become a true "Republic of equals" when the Eighth Amendment is repealed and the State stops treating an unborn foetus as equal to a woman.
The Dublin TD warned that her Leinster House colleagues could no longer hide behind the availability of abortion in the UK to avoid dealing with the difficult and divisive issue.
Ms Zappone last night delivered a keynote speech in Wexford which has been viewed as effectively launching the campaign for next year's referendum. In doing so, the independent TD staunchly backed the campaign for the amendment to be repealed, warning that women must be given full rights over their own bodies.
But Ms Zappone acknowledged that the looming debate over abortion "will trouble many". "As long as the Constitution treats a foetus as equal to a woman, her autonomy can be nothing more than a myth," she warned.
The remarks sparked a storm of criticism from Pro-Life campaigners. Multiple objections to the speech were made via social media, while some Pro-Life campaigners threatened to mount protests at events attended by the minister.
However, Ms Zappone warned that Ireland needed to tackle the issue.
"As a woman, a progressive, a campaigner and a Government minister, I firmly believe we need a system of reproductive justice - which must include a referendum on reproductive rights."
She said tens of thousands of women had already paid the price for Ireland's stance on equal rights. "Every year thousands travel, unknown numbers import and take the abortion pill, and more still self-harm to end their pregnancies," she said.
"We do not know how many thousands of women have continued with pregnancies against their will since 1983."
Ms Zappone was at the opening of the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co Wexford, and said she was inspired throughout her political life by the legacy of John F Kennedy.