The exact wording of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be officially signed off on by the Cabinet next week, paving the way for the straight repeal or retain question to be ratified by the Dáil and Seanad.
The Irish Examiner understands the key stage in the referendum timetable will take place tomorrow alongside the linked publication of a detailed overview of the 12-week abortion access law should the referendum pass.
Speaking to this newspaper, a spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris said the minister will bring the exact referendum wording to the Cabinet tomorrow to ensure the timetable for the mooted May 25 referendum date can be met.
As previously revealed by the Irish Examiner and publicly confirmed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Government intends to ask the public a straight ‘repeal or retain’ question on the future of the Eighth Amendment, which equates the rights of the expectant mother with those of the unborn child she is carrying.
While the Government wants to wait until the outcome of an ongoing, separate court case on the rights of the unborn which is due to be ruled upon in the coming days — a timeline unlikely to be affected by the severe weather — it anticipates this will take place before the Cabinet meets.
The official referendum question rubberstamping will allow for the issue to be agreed before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar travels to the US this weekend for the start of the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
It will also allow the Government to keep to its intended schedule of the Dáil and Seanad debating the referendum question before the widely-expected agreement that it should be held in the middle of this month.
To ensure full transparency on the issue during the Dáil and Seanad referendum debates, Mr Harris has said he will also publish a policy paper on the proposed law to allow access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy should the referendum pass.
This document will not contain the full breakdown of the proposed law, as it is not constitutionally possible to publish the complete detail unless the referendum passes.
However, a spokesperson for Mr Harris said it will contain a significant amount of information about the proposed post-Eighth Amendment law so as to allow a genuine debate on its impact.
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