Citizens’ Assembly set to deal with ‘contentious’ abortion issue

Body to take critical vote on fate of Eighth Amendment to Constitution this weekend

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly are said to be  ready to make recommendations on abortion to the Government. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly are said to be ready to make recommendations on abortion to the Government. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly, who will vote on changes to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, are ready to make recommendations on abortion to the Government, chairwoman Mrs Justice Mary Laffoy has said.

The 99 members of the assembly, who have been deliberating on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution since last October, will meet again in Dublin this weekend.

Four have dropped out of the final session for personal reasons, so the 95 remaining members will vote on a sequential ballot during the weekend session in the Grand Hotel Malahide.

They will consider options to retain the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution in its present form, to repeal it or reform it, before lodging ballot papers which have been circulated in advance to the members.

The options, drawn up by Mrs Justice Laffoy and the secretariat of the Citizens’ Assembly, have been based on the feedback from the members after their penultimate weekend session in March.

Each option will be balloted on by the assembly’s members. The ballot will be presided over by John Fitzpatrick, the former returning officer for Co Dublin, and his team. All voting figures will be released.

‘Most contentious topic’

Praising “the incredible work ethic” of the assembly’s members, Mrs Justice Laffoy said they had immersed themselves in “one of the most complex and contentious topics in Irish society”.

They had “listened with respect to the voices and opinions of others”, she said: “They have covered ground that has never previously been explored in Ireland and this will be to the benefit of discourse on this subject.”

The members’ questions suggest that they fully understood the legal and medical complexities of the issues involved and were willing to vote accordingly, said a spokesman for the assembly.

Members have been asked to come up with recommendations to send to the Oireachtas, which will be submitted by Mrs Justice Laffoy to the Oireachtas by June at the latest.