The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – As the Cabinet returned from its Christmas break on January 10th, our Taoiseach announced to the nation’s journalists that he believed the proposal to make abortion on request legal up to 12 weeks may be “a step too far” for the majority of the public (News, January 11th).

Let’s review the chain of events for a moment. Following a full and frank investigation by the Citizens’ Assembly, the recommendation was to repeal the Eighth Amendment with additional recommendations as to circumstances.

These recommendations proved difficult for our Government to stomach and so a joint Oireachtas committee was subsequently assigned a similar task. It came to an almost identical conclusion.

If this exercise in deflection proves nothing else, it clearly demonstrates that when people are fully armed with all the facts, they will make the humane and sensible decision to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Rather than adding fuel to the fire, it would be preferable if Mr Varadkar committed to a reasoned, rational and fact-based referendum so Irish people could use their vote as wisely as the Citizen’s Assembly and the Oireachtas committee did before them. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The Cabinet is right to have reservations about allowing abortions up to 12 weeks in Ireland. We are trying to educate our young people to be sexually responsible. If you are sexually active you are aware of the risk of pregnancy. Women must be taught to know their cycle and to take the earliest possible pregnancy test if they have any concern. Abortion is never a happy event, but is an evil necessity. Allowing abortion up to five weeks from conception (seven weeks clinically) still promotes responsibility. By 12 weeks, a foetus is too advanced and the procedure becomes a cruelty. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Leo Varadkar says that the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment’s recommendation that abortion be allowed on request up to 12 weeks may be “a step too far” for the Irish public.

Mr Varadkar also still refuses to clearly state his position on the issue even though he understands “the logic” behind the committee’s report and despite a significant number of his cabinet colleagues having had no such difficulty in declaring their own views.

It is a disappointing, though not entirely surprising, position for the Taoiseach to take. After showing such strong leadership before Christmas during the international Brexit crisis, he has now resorted to small-time politician mode over a domestic “woman’s issue”.

Mr Varadkar would no doubt refer to politics being about “the art of the possible” if asked to justify his reticence.

However, a true statesperson should realise that an issue as important as abortion, like Brexit, requires courageous, real and principled leadership rather than the petty bean-counting and sizing-up of the electoral numbers of a political hack. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Opinion & Analysis, January 11th) expresses the view that “Peter Sutherland never quite got the recognition at home he deserved”.

That is certainly true in one respect. In 1983 as attorney general he advised the taoiseach of the day that the proposed wording for the constitutional referendum (the Eighth Amendment) was flawed.

Garret FitzGerald , a pro-life politician if ever there was one, accepted Sutherland’s advice and warned the electorate that we were in danger of walking into a legal morass.

I was one of those who ignored the then-taoiseach’s advice and thus bear some responsibility for the debacle which has plagued us ever since.

I went along with the popular tide, believing we were setting Ireland up as “a moral beacon” for our less enlightened European neighbours.

I confess openly to being “pro-life” but I must admit that Peter Sutherland and Garret FitzGerald were correct in stating that the wording of “the Eighth” was flawed and would not deal with the abortion issue in the manner which the voters intended. – Yours, etc,



Co Tipperary.

Sir, – The Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment both recommended repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and significant liberalisation of our abortion laws. The Taoiseach is concerned that for the majority of the public this may be “one step too far”.

Given that these recommendations came from a representative assembly and then a committee of public representatives, perhaps Mr Varadkar should trust the recommendations as being representative of the people. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.