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Drew Harris says existing legislation adequate in dealing with protests outside abortion centres

In July, Minister Simon Harris said exclusion zones outside hospitals and GP surgeries will be a “major priority”.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris
Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

GARDA COMMISSIONER DREW Harris has said that existing public order legislation is adequate to deal with protests seen to date outside health service clinics over abortion issues. 

Minister for Health Simon Harris received a letter from the Garda Commissioner on the matter following their recent meeting in the Department of Health. 

The letter outlined the Garda Commissioner’s view that existing public order legislation is adequate to deal with protests seen to date at health service centres.

However, the Minister clarified to Oireachtas colleagues during a meeting today that there is no legal advice against legislating in this area. 

He also outlined the work the Department is doing in this area, including examining measures undertaken in other countries.

He reiterated his intention is to work with colleagues on specific legislative proposals and invited the views of TDs and Senators in this regard.

Minister Harris committed to meeting again in two weeks to advance proposals in this regard.

In July, the Minister said that exclusion zones outside hospitals and GP surgeries will be a “major priority” in the new Dáil term.

Exclusion zones are intended to prevent protesters demonstrating within a certain distance of facilities providing abortion care. 

In a statement today, Minister Harris said the next steps would be to ensure there is greater awareness of the existing powers available to the gardaí.

The statement outlined that this is underway with the Minister communicating with health service providers and the Garda Commissioner issuing a notification to all chief superintendents and superintendents. 

He outlined that next steps would also be to meet with health service providers with a similar update as provided to Oireachtas members and to seek their views, and also a subsequent meeting in two weeks with Oireachtas colleagues for a further discussion to advance proposals. 

With reporting by Orla Dwyer and Christina Finn

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