Committee may make Eighth Amendment decision by next week

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger to push for the Oireachtas group to make its views known

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger is to call for the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment to announce its views next week. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger is to call for the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment to announce its views next week. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The all-party Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment may make a decision as early as next week on whether to recommend repealing or replacing the Amendment.

Solidarity TD and committee member Ruth Coppinger plans to ask the committee on Wednesday to meet next week to consider its decision on the Amendment and to announce its views afterwards.

The committee is due to finish its first module on Wednesday. This module deals with the proposed wording of a referendum regarding the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans abortion except in extremely limited circumstances.

Ms Coppinger said she would ask her fellow committee members to decide on whether a referendum should ask if the Amendment should be completely repealed or replaced with a provision making it clear that abortion is a matter only for the Oireachtas, as was the recommendation of the Citizens’ Assembly.

The proposed extraordinary session would take place before the committee moves on to its second module, which will consider the other recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, including the legislative framework for abortion which would follow a referendum on the Amendment.

The committee has until December 20th to finish its work, ahead of a proposed referendum date in May or June 2018.

It was originally thought that it would wait until all modules were finished before making recommendations, but Ms Coppinger believes it should make its views known as it goes along.

“My feeling is the committee should make a recommendation on the Eighth Amendment before we move on,” she said ahead of Wednesday’s session.

‘Ridiculous idea’

Ms Coppinger said the idea that the committee should listen to witnesses on an issue now and then wait two months before issuing a decision was “ridiculous”.

She said the ground rules of the committee state that it can make decisions as it goes along, decisions which can be amended in its final report if necessary.

“It’s important that people get clarity out there. People out there should know our intentions. And it would allow us to meet a May deadline set by the Taoiseach,” she told The Irish Times.

She said she would call for the proposed session to be held in public, but that other members of the committee might object to this.

Wednesday’s session is due to hear from Emily Logan, the chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

Ms Logan and her colleagues are expected to call on the Government to hold a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment and then to legislate for widespread access to abortion.

The committee will also hear from veteran anti-abortion campaigner Prof William Binchy.