Referendum on Eighth Amendment can go ahead after court ruling

Senator Catherine Noone welcomes Supreme Court decision on the unborn

Ministers have welcomed the Supreme Court’s determination on the rights of the unborn and reaffirmed their intention to hold a referendum by the end of May.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone welcomed the ruling confirming the unborn has no constitutional rights outside the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Harris said the pathway is now clear for a referendum and a discussion on the role of the amendment in the Constitution.

The ruling was considered by the Attorney General Séamus Woulfe on Wednesday, and his advice will be presented at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday morning. It is expected there will be no significant change to the draft wording considered by Cabinet earlier this month.


Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan and others also welcomed the ruling, while Independent TD Mattie McGrath, who is in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment, said it was "profoundly disturbing".

The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference noted the Supreme Court decision and referred to the pastoral message published earlier this week.

“Every one of us has a right to our life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law,” the message says. “We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. For us as a society to now declare that any category of human being should have that right taken from them would be a shocking step.”

The Iona Institute said the Government’s decision to appeal the High Court ruling demonstrated its “overt hostility” towards the unborn. “The Irish people have now become, in effect, the last line of defence in Ireland for the unborn child,” said spokeswoman Maria Steen.

Niamh Uí Bhrian of Save the Eighth said the court’s ruling “exposes the frightening reality of the Government’s proposals on abortion” while the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children described it as “perverse”.

However, it was welcomed by the Abortion Rights Campaign. "We know that the vast majority of people want to see change to our abortion laws, so that women and their families can make personal and private decisions about their healthcare without fear of prosecution," said spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh.