Potential legal challenges to the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution will not delay the passage of legislation to give effect to Ireland’s new abortion regime, Government sources say.
Three separate applications have been initiated seeking permission to bring petitions challenging the result of last month’s referendum. It saw a landslide vote of 66.4 per cent in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
One challenge is from a woman who previously failed in her petition seeking to overturn the result of the 2012 Children’s Referendum.
Dublin woman Joanna Jordan makes a number of claims, including that large numbers of potential No voters were unable to vote due to "de-registering". She also claims an unexplained "swing" towards the Yes side.
The other cases, among other issues, challenge the Referendum Commission's information campaign and booklet and says Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris made "misstatements" during the campaign.
Under the Referendum Act, applications to bring petitions seeking leave to challenge the result of a referendum must be presented seven days after the official result is published in Iris Oifigiúil.
Government sources say such challenges were expected, and insist they will not “derail” work on giving effect to the referendum result.
“There are usually legal challenges to referendums,” said one source. “In fact, it’s hard to think of a referendum where there hasn’t been one.”
Ms Jordan's challenge to the Children's Referendum lasted three years until the Supreme Court unanimously refused to order a re-running of the poll. It found Ms Jordan had failed to prove an unconstitutional government information campaign "materially affected" the outcome.
Senior Government figures believe the challenges to the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will not be as drawn out.
“The work of Government will continue,” said one figure, who declined to speak publicly due to the challenges before the courts.
The Cabinet will consider a Bill to allow for abortion without restrictions in the 12 weeks of pregnancy on July 10th.
It is expected to be considered by the Dáil on July 11th and 12th and it is hoped it will pass second stage by the summer recess, with a longer Dáil term mooted.
It is hoped the legislation will pass all stages in the Oireachtas by September or October and then be sent to President Michael D Higgins for his approval.
Abortions services are likely to be available in Ireland from next year.