Abortion legislation before the summer a ‘challenge’

The Government has said that despite wanting to do so, it will be “quite challenging” to get legislation for the introduction of abortion brought into the Dáil before the summer recess.

Health Minister Simon Harris has restated his commitment to have the new legal framework in place by Christmas time, but citizens’ groups behind the yes vote are demanding it happens sooner than that.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said she always believed the Irish people would do the right thing but was “surprised” by the size of the yes vote.

She said she would wish to seek to have the legislation passed as quickly as possible, but challenges exist.

“We have to wait and see how long that will take. All of us would love to see Second Stage before we rise for the summer. I have spoken to the Attorney General who said it would be quite challenging to complete that bill,” she said.

She said the vote on Friday was a huge advancement for women in Ireland.

“It was a day that represented the power of women. It is really important that we have a deep sense of urgency as public representatives to ensure we move as quickly as possible to implement the will of the people,” she said.

“Today and tomorrow, and the next day, women will still travel.”

Yesterday, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty described calls for special sittings as “not a bad idea”.

“The clear mandate we got from the people is to do this and do it quickly and the sooner we do it, the better,” she said.

“I am encouraged to hear some of the politicians who were opposed to the referendum now say they will not obstruct the bill,” she added.

She said she wants the Confidence and Supply Agreement extended by two years, given the many challenges facing the country, saying the arrangement is working well.

She called on Fianna Fáil to sit down with them in the summer to extend that deal.

She said the Government has not yet fully costed how much the proposed abortion legislation will cost but said given the social impact it will have, it will be “worth every penny”.

Responding to the huge endorsement of his proposal, Health Minister Simon Harris said that he will bring proposals to Cabinet tomorrow that will pave the way for abortion legislation to be enacted before the end of the year.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is greeted by retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness on arrival at the count centre in Dublin’s RDS. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

He said the women of Ireland who used to take the plane or the boat to access abortions abroad, can now “take our hand”.

He hailed the results as “a significant day” for our country.

“The people of Ireland have clearly thought about this issue at great length and for a significant period of time. Now they have answered that question and they have answered it in a resounding manner,” he said.

“They have said that they want to live in a country that treats women with compassion.

“Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis pregnancy have been told take the train, or take the boat; today we tell them, take our hand,” he said.

“Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis have been told, you’re on your own; today we want to say, we stand with you.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar heralded Ireland’s landslide referendum vote as a “quiet revolution” which has brought the country into the modern era and thrown off the last shadows of a conservative past.

He said the overwhelming yes result across all regions, 39 of 40 constituencies, almost age groups and both men and women, shows “we are not a divided country”.

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