Tánaiste wants an abortion referendum next year

Frances Fitzgerald says outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly is ‘very interesting’

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said there should be a referendum on abortion next year.

Yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald described the outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly’s deliberations on the Eighth Amendment, which bans abortion, as “very interesting”.

Members of the assembly voted by a large majority on Sunday in favour of allowing abortion in all circumstances.

“I think it deserves very serious consideration,” she said of the vote.


“My own view has always been that the Constitution is not the place to deal with this very complex issue, the best place is between a woman and her doctors, but of course you also have to have an appropriate legislative basis.”

Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at the latest passing-out ceremony of probationer gardaí at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday afternoon.

“My own thinking is that there should be a referendum next year, that we now will see what the [Oireachtas] committee that’s been established to look at this precisely [will do]; they will do that over the course of the next few months.

“I certainly believe that, like the marriage equality legislation and divorce, you would need to publish legislation before a referendum.”

Committee first

Asked if she was confident there will be a referendum on the issue next year, she said: “The plan is that it goes first to committee and, given the timescales that have been outlined, that’s certainly a very real possibility.”

The Tánaiste was also asked about the Policing Authority’s independent audit on the inflating of breath-test data.

She said she was looking forward to getting “comprehensive answers” on what had happened.

"The reason I've decided to refer it to the Policing Authority is to get at all of the facts [and] to have a comprehensive picture of what happened. I await that report with great interest.

“I think everyone in the country wants to know how this happened, what were the precise circumstances, what were the factors that led to this quite extraordinary situation, and I’ve set in motion the best way to do that, through the independent Policing Authority.”

She said she had always wanted to “take politics out of policing” and that having an independent authority was one of the key ways of doing that.

The Tánaiste told the probationer gardaí­that they were entering An Garda Síochána at a "critical time" in the force's history.

“Recent controversies, if not fully addressed, have the very real potential to undermine the traditional strong public trust that An Garda Síochána has enjoyed since the foundation of the State.

"Trust in policing is a cornerstone of any democracy and, once broken, is difficult to restore. But all of us who are ambitious for the future of policing in Ireland are determined that this will not happen."

Templemore ceremony

A total of 143 trainee gardaí passed out of Templemore yesterday, of whom 45 were female and 98 male.

The probationer gardaí were the ninth group to have been admitted to the Garda College since training resumed following the public service recruitment embargo.

The group included 12 non-Irish nationals, from England, Poland, the Netherlands and Scotland.

The force currently has just in excess of 13,000 members – down from a peak of 14,500 in 2009 but up from 12,800 last year.

The aim of Garda management and the Government is to get the number to 15,000 by 2021.

They also hope to have 4,000 civilian employees in An Garda Síochána by 2021 and 2,000 Garda reservists.

The Dublin Metropolitan Region is being allocated 67 of the probationer gardaí; 29 are going to the Eastern Region; 10 to the Southern Region (all in Cork); 21 to the South Eastern Region; 11 to the Northern Region, and five to the Western Region (all in Castlebar, Co Mayo).