Ireland to vote on retention of 8th Amendment in summer of 2018

Update 7pm: A referendum on abortion rights will likely be held next summer, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The vote on the Eighth Amendment to the Republic's Constitution - which states that the right to life of the mother and the unborn child are equal - is due in May or June.

The amendment has long been the source of contention in Ireland with pro-choice supporters demanding its abolition and pro-life advocates insisting it should be retained with the debate and decision  certain to attract global media attention. 

The Taoiseach has outlined the timetable for a number of votes on the state's constitutional framework.

Citizens will have the opportunity to have their say in June 2019 on whether voting rights in future presidential elections should be extended to Irish people living outside the state, including in Northern Ireland.

That month will also see votes on divorce laws and a proposal to reduce the voting age to 16.

Referenda on the offence of blasphemy and the state's defined view on the role of stay at home mothers will come in October next year.

That month will also see a plebiscite on the direct election of city mayors.

Each referendum will be subject to passage of Bills by the Irish parliament and formal confirmation of the polling date.

The Taoiseach said: "Any amendment to our Constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate. Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate."

A report on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution by an assembly of Irish citizens is currently being considered by a parliamentary committee. It will issue its own report by the end of the year. The wording of the referendum question will then be set.

Earlier: The Taoiseach has confirmed an abortion referendum on the 8th amendment to the Constitution will take place in May or June next year.

Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil of government plans for a total of seven referendums between now and the summer of 2019.

First, the ongoing work of the Oireachtas will feed into a referendum on the 8th Amendment in May or June next year.

Then in Nov 2018, three referenda will take place on the day scheduled for the presidential election, even if there is no presidential contest on that day.

The issues addressed will deal with women in the home, blasphemy and the possibility of plebiscites on directly elected Mayors.

Finally, about six months later three more referendums on the same day as the 2019 local elections will concern extending the franchise to citizens abroad to vote in presidential elections, lowering the voting age (for Presidential elections) to 16 and shortening the four-year separation to qualify for divorce.

THE TIMETABLE:

      • Referendum on the Eighth amendment - May or June 2018

      • Referendums on Blasphemy (Article 40.6.1) and “Woman's life within the home” (Article 41.2.1) – October 2018

      • Plebiscite on directly elected executive mayors - October 2018

      • Referendums on Divorce, Extending the Franchise at Presidential Elections to Irish Citizens Resident outside the State, and Reducing the voting age to 16, – June 2019

Each referendum will be subject to passage of Bills by the Houses of the Oireachtas and formal confirmation of the polling date.

The Taoiseach said: “Any amendment to our Constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate. Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate.”

The Citizens' Assembly report on the on the Eighth amendment of the Constitution is currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee which is expected to report before the end of the year. A Bill to amend the Constitution will be prepared in light of the Committee’s report, and subject to its passage by the Houses of the Oireachtas, a referendum will be held in May or June of 2018.

The Government is committed to holding constitutional referendums on Article 41.2.1, regarding a woman’s life within the home, and Article 40.6.1, on the offence of blasphemy – both arising from recommendations made by the Convention on the Constitution and included in the Programme for Government.

In March 2017 the Government approved in principle the holding of a referendum to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections also on foot of a recommendation from the Convention on the Constitution. The Convention also recommended a referendum on reducing the voting age to 16.

Reforms to local government including the direct election of city Mayors arise from the Programme for Government.

The Government decided against referendums on holding a referendum on keeping Irish Water in public ownership and another on Oireachtas Committees (powers of investigation)


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