Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to bring a memo to Cabinet next week setting up a citizens’ assembly on abortion.
He told the Dáil on Tuesday he had briefed his ministers on this at the weekly Cabinet meeting earlier, adding the programme for government contained a commitment it be set up within six months.
Mr Kenny said he did not believe a referendum removing the Eight Amendment to the Constitution, which enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn, would be carried if it was held next October.
“There needs to be a real discussion here,’’ he said.
People would want to know what was going to replace it, he added.
Mr Kenny said the Eight Amendment would be the first item for reflection by the assembly.
“It is pointless rushing into a constitutional referendum unless there is a realistic consensus on whatever change might be recommended here,’’ he added.
The Taoiseach said whatever emerged from the assembly would come back to an Oireachtas committee with access to appropriate experts.
“Out of that will come recommendations for change or not,’’ he added.
Mr Kenny was replying to Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger who referred to the United Nations Human Rights Committee's finding that Amanda Mellet, who was carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality, was subjected to discrimination and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment'' in the Republic.
Ms Coppinger said other EU states dealt with the issue, as did others around the world.
"Lots of these states do not have the luxury of a Ryanair plane out of the country to deal with it for them,'' she added. States with most difficulty dealing with abortion tended to be ones dominated by the Catholic Church, she said.
She claimed the Taoiseach had not listened to women for years on the issue, adding that a citizens’ assembly would be a charade.