Taoiseach says abortion referendum before end of May despite ‘reports to the contrary’

Sinn Féin leader says talk about June date ‘highly problematic’ for many young voters

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says it is the intention of his Government to hold a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in late May.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has re-iterated his plan for the referendum on abortion to be held in May.

“It is the Government’s intention to hold the referendum before the end of May, notwithstanding some of the reports I’ve read to the contrary,” he said.

He said Government was seeking further advice on the precise wording of the question to be asked in the referendum, “which we’re confident is okay but we need to get some further advice on it and also the place in the Constitution where it should rest”.

Mr Varadkar told told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald: “We’re on schedule in terms of the timeline we’ve set out but I can’t promise you that Deputy because I don’t control this House or the other House.”


Ms McDonald said that Minister for Health Simon Harris had tweeted that the Referendum Bill would be finalised in the coming days and that he would publish the Bill on March 6th.

She expressed concern that if as the Minister said “matters are to be concluded in the he coming days, why the delay to March 6th?”.

Ms McDonald called on Mr Varadkar to clarify if in fact the referendum would be held on May 28th.

“Minister (for Employment) Regina Doherty intimated that it might drag into June. I just want to establish that it will in fact be a May referendum.”

She said a “lot of people following the debate are concerned, including young voters for whom the June voting date is highly problematic”.

Mr Varadkar told her that the Minister for Health sought and received approval to draft the Referendum Bill, “the Bill to delete Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution and insert a new article enabling the Oireachtas to regulate abortion services in Ireland”.

He said they would be “in the hands of the House to make sure the Referendum Bill passes this House and the other House quickly”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times