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James Reilly Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland
repeal the eighth

James Reilly has reignited the abortion debate by calling for an early referendum

Enda Kenny has said Fine Gael won’t commit to a vote if the party is reelected.

THE ISSUE OF abortion is back in the spotlight today, after Minister for Children James Reilly called for a referendum on the issue to take place early in the next Dáil term.

The Fine Gael deputy leader told The Sunday Independent that women carrying babies with fatal foetal abnormalities should not be forced to go through with their pregnancies.

He also said it was “very difficult” to ask women who had been raped to continue to carry a child and called for the next government to move quickly to repeal the 8th Amendment, which gives equal rights to the life of the mother and that of the unborn.

Women who had had abortions in the UK, he added, were being forced to sneak back into Ireland “like criminals”.

Speaking in September, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would not commit to holding a referendum on the issue if Fine Gael is reelected.

“In respect of the 8th Amendment, I do not favour abortion on demand and I have no intention of abolishing the 8th Amendment without considering what it might be that might replace it,” he said, at the party’s pre-Dáil term think-in in Adare.


Others in the party however are in favour of a referendum. Reilly’s successor as health minister Leo Varadkar has said he will be campaigning for the party to hold a vote if reelected, and said it was a matter to be dealt with in the next Dáil.

However, speaking on The Week in Politics Today, Fine Gael junior minister Dara Murphy echoed Kenny’s take on the situation.

After describing it as a “very complicated” and divisive area, Murphy said that while the party was looking at the issue a decision hadn’t been taken yet.

“I think what we need to see and will need to see before we move into the space is what exactly the alternative proposals would be with respect to what would happen after a repeal.”

On the same programme, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said there was now a “broad understanding” that the 8th Amendment had to be taken out of the Constitution.

ml2 Mary Lou McDonald

“It’s the job of legislators to legislate,” she said.

“It’s now time to woman-up, to man-up, to do our job and produce that legislation. I think it ought to be in the manifesto of every single political party.”

In a statement, the Pro Life Campaign’s Cora Sherlock described the 8th Amendment as providing “the last remaining protection for the unborn child”.

In June, a survey found many Fine Gael TDs and senators unwilling say whether or not they favour repeal of the 8th Amendment.

Poll: Would you like to see a referendum on the 8th early in the term of the next government? 

Poll Results:

Yes (3372)
No (636)
I don't know (147)

With reporting by Daragh Brophy.

Read: Pro-choice campaigners take ‘abortion pill bus’ across Ireland>

Read: Fianna Fáil doesn’t want to repeal the 8th Amendment>

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