Citizen’s assembly on abortion is crucial, says Simon Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris has said a citizen’s assembly is still the way forward on the abortion debate, even as a call to repeal the Eighth Amendment was made during a live broadcast of the Rose of Tralee competition.

Simon Harris’s remarks also come after the journey taken by two Irish women to Manchester for an abortion over the weekend. The women tweeted about their journey, using the hashtag #twowomentravel, and received overwhelming support from the public.

Referring to the two women, Mr Harris said: “I felt it was appropriate and important, as minister for health, for me to acknowledge the fact that these were Irish citizens telling their story and telling of their experience.

“There is, obviously, a process in place in terms of a citizens’ assembly which I believe is very important. This will provide us with the opportunity as a country and a society to have a mature, informed discussion about all of these issues,” he said.

He said a citizen’s assembly was important because a decision to repeal the eighth amendment will ultimately be one for the citizens.

“The legislature, the Dáil, the Seanad, has dealt with the issues in so far as the constitution of Ireland allows us to deal with them,” he said.

“If the people of Ireland wish to see further change, it will require the people of Ireland expressing that change through a referendum. But before we get to that point, I think we need to have that informed, inclusive, mature and respectful debate.”

Mr Harris said holding a referendum in this country is “extremely difficult”, and said a citizens’ assembly is not out of step with public sentiment on the matter.

“I don’t think we should apologise for putting an informed, structured process in place to deal with what has been one of the most contentious issues in the country over a very long period of years,” he said.

Critics however, continue to say the citizen’s assembly is a stalling tactic, arguing that the Irish public is ready for a referendum.

The Citizens’ Assembly will include 100 people from all walks of life, and will debate the possibility of holding a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which places as much value on the foetus as on the life of the mother. The assembly will then send its proposals to an all-party Oireachtas committee for consideration.

On Monday, Sydney Rose Brianna Parkins called for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed, while on stage during the live final of the Rose of Tralee festival.


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