Abortion referendum to be held next year, Varadkar says

Micheál Martin claims role of ‘super junior’ minister being abused with four appointed

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed there will be a referendum on the Eight Amendment to the Constitution on abortion next year.

He said Minister for Health Simon Harris would be responsible for bringing forward legislation to allow for the referendum on the amendment, which gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn.

Announcing his Cabinet to the Dáil, the Taoiseach said the “Rebuilding Ireland” housing programme would be reviewed within three months and any additional measures considered.

He said he was determined the Government would show new ambition when it came to climate change by setting out a road map to a low carbon economy.


“Climate will be the first item to be discussed at our first full day strategic Cabinet meeting in a few weeks time,” he added.

He said his Government would be one of purpose and a genuine partnership to work to improve the lives of all citizens.


Mr Varadkar said the amalgamation of the departments of Public Expenditure and Finance, and having the same Minister, was logical because of the restoration of economic sovereignty.

Mr Varadkar said a country and political system which had weathered difficulties should be able to get the health services right. The recent all-party committee report on health would meet with a detailed response with proposed measures and timelines, he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the use of the “Super Junior” role was starting to be abused with four Ministers of State now in roles attending Cabinet.

Mr Martin described it as an “avenue of convenience” as Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Joe McHugh and Paul Kehoe now hold Super Junior jobs.

The Cork South-Central TD congratulated his constituency colleague Simon Coveney on his transfer as Minister for Foreign Affairs, a department he described as “excellent”.

Attorney general

Mr Martin returned to his criticism of the appointment of outgoing Labour appointed attorney general Maire Whelan to the Court of Appeal and said it “stinks”.

“This is not something that can be got over with a ‘we’ll do better the next time’. And the silence from the Labour party is disappointing.”

He asked why Minister for Transport Shane Ross who staunchly opposed political intervention in judicial appointments “quietly wave through this appointment”.

He said it was a “good old fashioned trade between a judicial appointment and the re-opening of a Garda station”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Varadkar’s first decision in the appointment of his Cabinet “reflects caution and conservatism”, and had a Cabinet of “procrastinators, excuse makers and responsibility evaders”.

She said it was very interesting to hear Mr Martin “talk tough” but he was for the second time ushering a Fine Gael Taoiseach into office.

She said Sinn Féin was criticised for abstentionism at Westminster but “the true abstentionists of Irish politics are in fact Fianna Fáil as they sit on the fence and look the other way and give you, Taoiseach Varadkar, a honeymoon of indefinite duration”.

Ms McDonald said the Taoiseach should make it clear that his promise of an abortion referendum should be early next year.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times