Latest: Abortion polls 'contrived', says Mattie McGrath

Update 5.53pm: Pro-Life TD Mattie McGrath has said that polls showing support for repealing the Eighth Amendment are "contrived".

The latest Ipsos MRBI poll on abortion revealed that 56% of people would vote in favour of the constitutional change.

Earlier today Leo Varadkar told BBC Radio he would be campaigning to liberalise Ireland's abortion laws, but he stopped short of confirming if he was 'pro-choice'.

The announcement comes shortly after Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said he would support abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks.

Deputy McGrath says there is still a long way to go before a referendum.

"I think he likes polls, certainly, and likes his own popularity,

"But look - the real poll is in the ballot box.

"All these polls are contrived. It's part of a hugely well-funded campaign... this is a journey, they're talking about a journey in the Committee, it's a journey that went on for a long time.

"But the last bit of the road could be the bumpiest bit, and up the last hill can have you on the climb, so they might fall down again.

"So look, let's see what's going to happen here."

Update 1.56pm: Taoiseach refuses to call himself 'pro-choice' despite confirming campaign to liberalise abortion laws

The Taoiseach is refusing to call himself 'pro-choice' - despite confirming he will campaign to liberalise Ireland's abortion laws in any upcoming referendum.

Leo Varadkar says his views on the abortion issue "have evolved" in recent years.

The Cabinet is on Monday expected to give the formal go-ahead for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment to take place this year.

The Taoiseach believes it is time for change - although he refuses to call himself either 'pro-life' or pro-choice'.

He said: "Every single person I know who says they are pro-choice believes in some sort of restriction.

"These terms pro-life and pro-choice don't really comprehend the complexity of this issue which is a very private and personal one that contains a lot of grey areas."

Earlier: Taoiseach confirms he will campaign to liberalise abortion laws

Leo Varadkar has said he will campaign for abortion laws to be "liberalised" in an upcoming referendum on the issue.

The Taoiseach said his views had "evolved" since 2014 when he described himself as "pro-life" while acknowledging that current laws were too restrictive.

Ahead of a proposed referendum in summer, Mr Varadkar said he would be campaigning to change Ireland's abortion laws.

The Taoiseach will be campaigning for the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws in the upcoming referendum.

"I believe Ireland's abortion laws are too restrictive and need to be liberalised," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We'll have that referendum hopefully this summer, and we should be in a position to be making a decision on that in government next week.

"I'll be campaigning for them to be changed and to be liberalised, yes."

Discussing his own views, he said: "I think in that period I think it's fair to say that my own views on this matter have evolved.

"But I think sometimes that term - pro-life and pro-choice - can be misunderstood.

"I think even people who are in favour of abortion in certain circumstances are pro-life, I still believe in life, but I understand that there circumstances under which pregnancies can't continue."

A referendum on the contentious issue is expected in late May or early June.

Last December, a report by a specially convened Oireachtas committee found that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, known as the Eighth Amendment and passed in 1983, was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

It recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision, and that the procedure should be allowed if the life or health of the woman was at risk.

It also called for expectant mothers to be allowed an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy if doctors diagnosed a foetal abnormality that was likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

- PA

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