Committee set to back repeal of Eighth Amendment

The Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment is set to recommend a straight repeal of article 40.3.3, its complete removal from the Constitution, and for any future abortion laws to be decided solely by the Dáil.

At least 12 members of the 21-person committee publicly said they are in favour of the recommendation at a meeting yesterday.

While no decision will be made until Wednesday, in their individual public statements yesterday, 12 of the 21 committee members said they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment and that no other option will suffice.

If the public comments are formally repeated next week, the Oireachtas will be told by the committee that abortion must be removed entirely from the Constitution and that it will be up to the Dáil of the day to decide what, if any, laws should apply.

“We owe the Irish people the right to adjudicate on this,” said Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher.

His intervention in support of repeal led to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone — who was sitting in the public gallery —walking over to him while the meeting continued to shake his hand.

“I personally believe a repeal of the Eighth Amendment is the most practical way to go about this,” said Mr Kelleher.

“We cannot continue to condemn women for making that choice [having a abortion], for criminalising them in their own country for making that choice, and for forcing them to go abroad because the choice isn’t here.”

During a four-hour public meeting yesterday, 12 of the 21 committee members said they want to recommend a straight repeal of the Eighth Amendment. They were: Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Independent senator Lynn Ruane, Independents4Change TD Clare Daly, Fianna Fáil TDs Lisa Chambers and Mr Kelleher, Sinn Féin TDs Jonathan O’Brien and Louise O’Reilly, Sinn Féin senator Paul Gavan, and Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell.

In addition, while Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton raised concerns over giving elected politicians the sole right to legislate, she said she is convinced abortion must be decriminalised.

Fianna Fáil senator Ned O’Sullivan said he is in favour of liberalising the law, while Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan said while he does not agree with abortion, the law must change.

Jan O’Sullivan said that “very simply, my recommendation is for a repeal simpliciter to be put to the people”.

Kate O’Connell said it is time for repeal to be voted on by the public, pointing out that even Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was just four years old when the abortion law was introduced.

Pro-life committee members Independent senator Ronan Mullen, Independent TD Mattie McGrath, and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick called for the Eighth Amendment to be retained.

Mr McGrath said their membership on the committee was about “plausible deniability”. He accused committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone of bias and said the debate was part of “fine-tuning to sell recommendations”.

This was disputed by the majority of the committee.

The likely recommendation to repeal the Eighth Amendment will be voted on by the committee next Wednesday before it provides its report to the Oireachtas by Wednesday, December 20.

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