Kenny to gauge ‘consensus for change’ on abortion

Taoiseach says time important to assess issue, repeats support for citizens’ assembly

Enda Kenny will visit three UK cities to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Enda Kenny will visit three UK cities to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said there is a need to gauge the consensus for change among Irish people in relation to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on abortion.

Mr Kenny said there was no deal in place about the issue with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“This is something that is so traumatic and sensitive and personal for some people and families,” he said.

“It has divided Irish society for a long time. I myself have struggled with this. It’s a profound issue.”

He said that time would be required and it was important not to rush into a decision.

That is why he said there was a need for a citizens’ assembly unfettered by politicians and a subsequent Oireachtas committee, with medical and legal advice.

“This is really about understanding that change to Constitution requires a measure of understanding.

“In this case it’s my view it’s important to determine what level of consensus there is for change,” he said.

‘Close call’

Mr Kenny also said the result of the Brexit referendum will be a “close call” and expressed the view that turnout would be decisive.

Mr Kenny said recent polls were a “matter of concern” for him and disclosed that he himself would be visiting three British cities next Thursday and Friday - Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow - to restate the Irish position that British membership of the EU is good for Britain and good for Ireland.

He will meet British prime minster David Cameron during the Manchester leg of the visit, he also disclosed, where it is expected they will host a joint press conference.

Mr Kenny also signalled very strongly that he would not be vacating the position of Taoiseach or as leader of Fine Gael for a long time. He said there were 700 issues in the programme of government and he had a lot of work to do before that question arose.

He also denied emphatically that he had suggested John Bruton for the board of directors of the European Investment Bank, a suggestion that had come from Government colleagues Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.

He also said he would stand over what he said in the Dáil about Donald Trump being racist and divisive, if he were to meet him during his visit to Ireland.

Mr Kenny was speaking during a media briefing with political reporters. The briefing employed a new format designed to where the Taoiseach sat on a single chair, flanked by the Tricolour and the EU flag, and answered questions, none of which had been agreed or flagged in advance.

Government advisers have said the format, intended to be more relaxed, will become a regular fixture during this Dáil.