Citizens’ Assembly calls for submissions on abortion
Members of the public invited to make submissions by December 16th
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, Chairperson and Sharon Finegan, Secretary, at the Inaugural meeting of The Citizens’ Assembly in Dublin Castle. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
The Citizens’ Assembly is calling for submissions from the public on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, a law that places the life of the unborn on an equal footing to that of the mother.
The assembly is a body made up of chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and 99 citizens who have been selected randomly to examine a number of issues.
The Eight Amendment of the Constitution is the first topic up for consideration and will be discussed at the next meeting of the assembly on November 26th. The closing date for submissions is December 16th.
Ms Justice Laffoy said said the assembly was inviting submissions from representative groups, citizen organisations and members of the public. These would help to create the work programme for the debate.
“I expect that due to the complexity of this topic the assembly will require several meetings to be able to fully understand the issues and to hear from all voices in the discussion,” she said.
Justice Laffoy said the public is encouraged to follow the assembly meetings that will be streamed online.
The assembly was established by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to discuss the Eight Amendment and abortion, and will report back to an Oireachtas committee in June next year with recommendations.
A Government motion has given the Oireachtas committee an additional six months after the assembly reports to complete its deliberations.
This means there will be no referendum on abortion before 2018 at the earliest. There are concerns that due to the precarious nature of the minority Government’s numbers the referendum may not take place under its watch.
The Taoiseach has said in the Dáil there are at least six options the assembly can take as it deals with the issue of abortion and the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
Mr Kenny said there was no political direction being given to the assembly “and there is no political cul-de-sac being put in place”.
Mr Kenny said during Taoiseach’s questions that “nobody under 50 years of age has voted on this issue in Ireland”.
He said the issue would create its own divisions in society as the discussions took place “but the Citizens’ Assembly will not be making the decision. That will come back to the legislators here.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has claimed the Government’s approach was “one of delaying a referendum and the type of legislation that would be required”.