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'What happened in relation to Holles Street was pretty disgusting' - Simon Harris says exclusion zones will be a priority

“We shouldn’t have to change the law to have a basic understanding of decency,” Harris said.

Image: Our Lady of Lourdes Protectors

EXCLUSION ZONES OUTSIDE hospitals and GP surgeries will be a “major priority” in the new Dáil term, according to Minister for Health Simon Harris. 

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

The issue came to light again this week after a pro-life group brought three baby-sized coffins outside the the National Maternity Hospital last Saturday as part of a weekly protest. 

“I think what happened in relation to Holles Street was pretty darn disgusting,” Harris told TheJournal.ie. 

“There will have been women going in and out of that hospital, let alone healthcare professionals, who could have had a miscarriage, who could have been going in to get the news of a devastating diagnosis in relation to their much-wanted pregnancy and to have to walk by three coffins is inhumane. It’s actually hard to put words on it.”

Harris said he will be receiving several policy options later this week from his department concerning how to go ahead with forming legislation on exclusion zones.

The minister said in February that the government aimed to have a draft legislation prepared by summer. The Dáil holds its last sitting today until September. 

“It is my intention to legislate on this area and it will be a major priority for me in the new term,” Harris said.  

“We do need exclusion zones. I have a government decision in relation to that. This is quite a tricky piece of legislation. Different countries have done different things in this regard.”

Harris spoke at the launch of the Policy on the Development of Graduate to Advanced Nursing and Midwifery Practice earlier today in the Department of Health. 

“We shouldn’t have to change the law to have a basic understanding of decency. There are people in this country who are passionately pro-life and I respect them. I respect their right to do that,” said Harris. 

“They had a very respectful rally in town a couple of weekends ago, as is their absolute right. I’ll fundamentally disagree with them but I’ll fundamentally defend their right to do that. But turning up with three children’s coffins and turning up outside our national maternity hospital is a new level of low.”

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