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No plans to revisit abortion laws, in spite of severe criticism from UN

The UN Human Rights Committee is urging the Government to revise its “highly restrictive” abortion laws.

Image: voting via Shutterstock

BOTH THE TAOISEACH and the Tánaiste have played down suggestions that Ireland might hold a referendum on the issue of abortion within its term of office.

It follows the publication of a UN Human Rights Committee report earlier which was severely critical of the “highly restrictive” circumstances in which a woman can lawfully have an abortion here.

The report says the state should revise its laws in the area “including its Constitution, to provide for additional exceptions in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the mother, or fatal foetal abnormality”.

The Taoiseach was asked at a Government press conference this afternoon whether he felt “shamed” to have Ireland’s record in the area highlighted by the UN — and why a further referendum couldn’t be held, extending the right to choose for rape and incest victims, and women with fatal foetal conditions.

He said the coalition had already “set out our view in respect of these matters” adding:

Obviously there are always changes required to the legal system. We’ve made some radical changes in many aspects of the legal system.

On the issue of another referendum, he said:

The Government hasn’t considered that.

And he said the coalition had “set out a number of areas of priority for referenda to be asked of the people”.

It’s already been confirmed that a referendum on same-sex marriage will be held in spring of 2015, alongside public votes on a number of other issues discussed by the Constitutional Convention.

X Case

Tánaiste Joan Burton prefaced her answer by pointing out that she hadn’t had a chance to read the UN panel’s findings yet.

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But she insisted the Government had taken the initiative in tackling “extraordinarily difficult legacy issues in this country that affected women and men”.

We actually as a Government legislated this time last year for the X Case — that is something which required to be addressed for a long number of decades.

She said the referenda to be held next year had been “selected by Government in terms of priority”.

It’s considered extremely unlikely that the coalition will revisit the issue before the end of its term, in the wake of last year’s divisive vote on the protection of life bill — which led to five TDs and two senators leaving Fine Gael.

Read Same-sex marriage vote to be one of a number of referendums to be held in 2015

Read UN: Ireland must take action to decriminalise abortion

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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