Government waits on abortion report

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has said it will be October before the Government considers a range of reforms on abortion law.

The Fine Gael Minister refused to be drawn on reports of a coalition rift with Labour over possible laws which would lift the ban.

An expert group has been appointed to consider the controversial issue and a report is expected to be ready with recommendations for the Cabinet in three months.

"The recommendations would cover a wide variety of actions. Let's wait and see what the expert group say," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"I think it's important to wait and see what these recommendations are and Cabinet will consider those recommendations when we receive them."

Minister Fitzgerald's plea came after Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch veered from the Coalition line yesterday when she said it was "fairly certain" that the expert group would recommend legislation for abortion in some circumstances.

The Labour TD, a Minister of State within the Department of Health, said there was no point in the Government appointing the group if it would not follow its suggestions.

Later, Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said he would not speculate on what the group would recommend and said the Government would have to wait and see.

Ms Fitzgerald made her remarks as she launched the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network, which was set up to support people working with grieving children and young people.

Based on a UK model, a hub will be created for those working with bereaved children, young people and their families and to allow easy access to high quality local and national information, guidance and support to enable children to manage grief.

It is estimated that 3,360 of 16-year-olds in 2011 may have experienced the death of one or both parents and a similar number have been bereaved of a sibling.

Between 36,000 and 60,000 Irish children could have experienced a significant bereavement.

Ms Fitzgerald also refused to be drawn into the widening debate on taxing child benefits.

She said taxing the universal payment among high earners was a budgetary matter that had yet to be discussed.

"We're in the middle of very complex Budget discussions at a department level at the moment," said Ms Fitzgerald.

"We haven't discussed the Budget decisions at Cabinet level yet. There will be a range of issues which will be discussed. Clearly I'm going to keep my opinions on the various options open to the Government until we discuss them at Cabinet level."

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