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Health Minister says it was "important" to respond to women who live-tweeted their abortion journey

He said he expected all members of government, including those in the Independent Alliance, to back the Citizen’s Assembly process.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris said he felt it was “appropriate and important” that he respond to the Twitter account manned by two women who travelled to Britain for an abortion over the weekend.

The account was in operation from early Saturday, and chronicled two women’s trip from leaving Ireland until their return.

Every tweet sent was directed at Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Tweet by @Two Women Travel Source: Two Women Travel/Twitter

Harris responded to the women on Twitter over the weekend and thanked them for sharing their story.

Tweet by @Simon Harris TD Source: Simon Harris TD/Twitter

Speaking to the media today, Harris said:

I felt it was appropriate and important as the Minister for Health for me to acknowledge the fact that these were Irish citizens telling their story and telling their experience…
I certainly felt it was important to acknowledge the fact that there were some of our citizens travelling to the UK and sharing their story with other citizens through social media at the weekend.

He said the women had tweeted about what he described as a “very personal journey”.

Harris said he received tweets from the two women directly and also other people in relation to the account.

Experience of Irish women 

As the minister for health, he said he wanted to acknowledge the women’s story which he said was the “experience and story of many other Irish women”.

However, Harris said a process is in place to deal with the issue, in the form of the Citizen’s Assembly, which will commence in the coming weeks.

It will be made up of 99 Irish citizens and chaired by Justice Mary Laffoy, a serving judge of the Supreme Court.

The Citizen’s Assembly will provide an opportunity as a country and as a society to have “mature, informed discussion about all of these issues”, he said.

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Last night’s incident, where the Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins used her interview with Rose of Tralee host Dáithí Ó Sé to call for a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment was also raised with Harris today and he was asked about his own, personal views.

My own view on the need for a referendum is on the record of the Dáil. I feel my generation and those older than my generation have never had a say on this matter.

However, he said that people have to be conscious that referenda in this country are “extraordinarily difficult”.

You can’t have a referenda based on two or three words. You have to have an informed discussion about what would people require the situation to be like in Ireland, what are the facts of the situation, and I think actually, having an informed debate outside of the political sphere of the floor of the Dáil is important.
I think it will help inform all of us as citizens. Ultimately, it is not me as a minister, but me as a citizen, and you as citizens to decide which way you want to vote, should we arrive at referendum.

Free vote 

He pointed out that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has already made it clear that TDs will have a free vote in the Dáil on the issue.

The health minister said he only heard the news today that members of the Independent Alliance are seeking a free vote on an upcoming AAA-PBP Dáil motion seeking to repeal the eighth amendment and did not have a chance to discuss the matter with his Cabinet colleagues.

The eighth amendment guarantees the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

4/5/2016. General Election Talks Junior Training and Skills Minister John Halligan and Junior Minister for Disability Finian McGrath. Source: Sam Boal

Harris said he expected all ministers to support the government’s position.

“My understanding of this is quite clear,” he said, outlining that the programme for government sets out the process by which the eighth amendment can be considered and that is the process of a Citizen’s Assembly.

“I don’t think, therefore, as a government it would be appropriate to be supporting any other sort of parallel process or alternate process.

“I expect all members of government to stand by the programme for government which is very clear cut in this regard.”

Read: Health Minister thanks two women who live-tweeted their abortion journey>

Read: For the first time in years, more people are migrating into Ireland than leaving>

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