Citizens’ Assembly criticises calibre of submissions on abortion

Some members ‘taken aback’ by large number from religious organisations

Members of the Citizens’ Assembly have expressed dissatisfaction at the calibre of submissions made in relation to the issue of abortion.

The Citizens’ Assembly ,which is made up of 99 people and is deliberating on the eighth amendment to the Constitution this weekend, began with a discussion based on a random sample of 300 public submissions out of the 13,500 received by the secretariat of the assembly.

Many expressed the view that the submissions were repetitive, emotional and told them nothing that they had not heard before.

Some 185 were from emailed submissions and 115 were those delivered by post, reflecting the breakdown in how the submission were received.


Each submission was given a random number and no filtering was done according to whether the views expressed were pro-choice or anti-abortion.

In feedback from the different tables, many of the citizens complained at the repetitive nature of the submissions. Assembly chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said she acknowledged there was repetition, but the random sampling reflected the nature of the submissions made.

Each of the 14 tables nominated one spokesperson to speak on their behalf.

One spokesman said the submissions encountered contained “largely unprovable information presented as fact. They were very difficult to substantiate and not overly helpful to the process.”

He added: “On both sides there is a rather polarised view that did not reflect the nuance involved. A lot of arguments were more emotive than helpful or factual.”

Another said the submissions were from “vested interests”. There were “strong views” expressed on both sides rather than a balanced argument. He noted that a lot of the submissions had a religious ethos which were not relevant to the discussion. Another said their table was “taken aback” by the large number of submissions from religious organisations.

One member suggested that they bypass completely the submissions that are overtly emotional. He, along with others, stated that the personal stories were more helpful to their deliberations.

One table was “unanimous of the view” that nothing in the submissions surprised the citizens and no arguments were advanced that had not been encountered before.

Two tables specifically criticised the anti-abortion submissions. One noted that much of the postal submissions were weighted towards the anti-abortion line which he suggested might reflect the demographic involved. Another table was of the “unanimous view” that the anti-abortion submissions “offered no solutions”.

A third table asked that a breakdown be given between the number of submissions received on both sides of the argument. Ms Justice Laffoy said such a breakdown may not be possible.

The members of the assembly did, however, praise the personal testimonies received. One female member praised the testimony of a woman who developed complications after taking the abortion pill as she could not access medical advice from a GP.

She also said she was moved by the story of a man who was born in a mother and baby home and who said that he would likely have not been born if abortion had been available.

All 13,500 submissions are available online at

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times