Burton promises abortion vote if Labour returns to power

Enda Kenny’s spokesman says Taoiseach has not committed to holding a referendum

The Labour Party would, if in government, hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution on abortion within 18 months of the start of the next Dáil, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

The Labour Party would, if in government, hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution on abortion within 18 months of the start of the next Dáil, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

 

The Labour Party would, if in government, hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution on abortion within 18 months of the start of the next Dáil, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said.

She said Labour was opposed to the Amendment, which guarantees the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn, being added to the Constitution in the first place back in 1983.

“We have had a long standing position that it doesn’t best serve the interests of women or indeed of the wider Irish society,” she said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Monday refused to commit to a date for a referendum on the subject and questioned whether such a vote would be passed by the electorate.

“You can’t just remove an article from the constitution,” he said at a Fine Gael event in Dublin. “You have to have the support of the people. I think if that were put to the people today, the result would be unclear.”

Mr Kenny said cases of fatal foetal abnormality, incest and rape were “very, very difficult situations”. He said the issue would be dealt with comprehensively by a Citizen’s Convention and indicated a referendum would take place.

However, the Taoiseach said he would be “loathe” to put a date on any future vote.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach later clarified: “What the Taoiseach was referring to in relation to the timeline mentioned was a commitment to carrying out a process for examination of the eighth amendment and its possible replacement.

“It was not a commitment to the holding of a referendum in that timeline.”

Mr Kenny has committed to a constitutional review of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans abortion, within six months of the general election if Fine Gael is returned to government.

The Taoiseach has said a citizens’ forum to debate changes to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn, will be established to examine the issue.

Fine Gael TDs are to be given a free vote on the matter in Dáil whatever the outcome of the forum is. The party said the forum would be “ a process of consideration by citizens, expert groups and politicians” of the issue but added that its proposed structure has not been finalised.

Labour and Sinn Féin has committed to repeal of the amendment while Fianna Fail will allow a vote of conscience on the issue.