Tánaiste ‘united with the Cabinet’ on abortion referendum

Coveney says referendum is once in a generation chance and a ‘no result will mean nothing can change’

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said on Sunday however that he was “united with the Cabinet in deciding on a repeal and replace referendum”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said on Sunday however that he was “united with the Cabinet in deciding on a repeal and replace referendum”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has insisted he is united with the Cabinet and will campaign for a Yes vote to repeal and replace the Eighth Amendment on abortion.

He said the referendum is a once in a generation chance and a “no result will mean nothing can change”.

Mr Coveney was responding following a challenge from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who said that if there was an alternative to the Oireachtas committee’s recommendation “there’s an obligation to publish that alternative, to formulate it precisely and clearly so that there would be clarity about what people are saying”.

In an interview last week Mr Coveney expressed his opposition to abortion on request up to 12 weeks and suggested that in cases of rape a doctor could decide on an abortion beyond 12 weeks.

Mr Martin said on RTÉ’s This Week radio programme: “It’s one thing to support the removal of the Eighth Amendment but I think there is an obligation that rather than just articulating a view or some vague idea as to what might replace it that it would be far more precise and clear in advance”.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said on Sunday however that he was “united with the Cabinet in deciding on a repeal and replace referendum. He believes we have a once in a generation chance and will campaign for a Yes vote as a No result will mean nothing can change.

“He respects that the Minister for Health must now prepare heads of legislation in line with the committee’s report and he will get his chance to input into the legislation process when it comes before the Oireachtas.”

Earlier on Sunday Minister for Health Simon Harris said he did not know if Mr Coveney’s suggestion in relation to rape was workable but said he did know that the plan put forward by the Oireachtas committee was workable.

Mr Harris said that if people vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment and that could not be taken for granted, “then we will have to scrutinise law, like any other law”.

He warned however on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that “there be no change for no circumstance if we keep the Eighth Amendment - rape incest, fatal foetal abnormality, women’s health, women’s mental health, a child who is raped and has to carry a pregnancy to full term. All of these situations will continue in Ireland if we don’t remove the Eighth.”

Mr Harris said “it would be really regrettable if we spend the next number of weeks talking about legislation and spend next number of weeks and taking for granted that major decision to repeal the Eighth Amendment. If Irish people decide to leave the Eighth, the rest of the conversation is hypothetical.”

The Oireachtas Commitee on the Eighth Amendment recommended repeal of the amendment - which guarantees the equal right to life of the mother and unborn child - and to repace it with legislation allowing for terminations on request up to 12 weeks.