Coalition drops strongest hint at Eighth Amendment referendum if returned to power

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton have given their strongest signal to date that a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment will happen if re-elected to office.

Mr Kenny, however, expressed some doubt whether a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment would be passed.

Ms Burton insisted that the Labour Party intends to address the abortion issue, adding that her party has always been opposed to the eighth amendment.

“We were opposed to it being included in the Constitution in the first place, so we have had a long-standing position that it doesn’t best serve the interests of women, or indeed of the wider Irish society,” said Ms Burton.

Mr Kenny said he anticipates that a vote on the issue will take place over the next “couple of years” if Fine Gael is returned to power.

Asked for his personal views on the issue, Mr Kenny said he is unsure whether the public would choose to repeal the eighth amendment, which gives equal status to the rights of the mother and the unborn.

“You can’t just remove an article from the Constitution,” he said. “You have to have the support of the people. I think if that were put to the people today, the result would be unclear.”

Coalition drops strongest hint at Eighth Amendment referendum if returned to power

The two party leaders were speaking at a press conference at Government Buildings to launch the final progress report on the implementation of the Programme for Government and revised Statement of Priorities.

Mr Kenny and Ms Burton claimed the Government had completed 93% of the items promised in the programme for Government.

Launching the 66-page self-assessment, Ms Burton said the choice in the general election would be simple — to continue with a coalition of Fine Gael and her party or face chaos.

She said the Coalition had brought “stability, growth, and balanced government”.

However, the first question saw the Coalition’s failure to break the link between bank debt and sovereign debt brought into sharp focus.

Ms Burton said the announcement in 2012 by European leaders was important because it allowed confidence return to Ireland, even if the promise wasn’t delivered on.

“The announcement in June 2012 was a very important point of confidence building at that time, allowing us the economy to recover,” she said.

Coalition drops strongest hint at Eighth Amendment referendum if returned to power

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “The progress is good and welcome. But is it enough? No. For some families there is still too much anxiety, too much worry about making ends meet,” he said about the 7% where the Coalition fell short.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has said that top rate of USC should be cut by 1% in the next Budget if Fine Gael is returned to government. Fine Gael Michael Noonan said the move was fully discussed with him by the Taoiseach and he agreed with it.

However, the Opposition was deeply critical about the “self-congratulatory” exercise.

Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher accused Mr Kenny and Ms Burton of a deep-seated “arrogance” by awarding themselves such a high rating, when huge parts of the programme for government were abandoned.

“Top of the list is the abandonment of the failed universal health insurance policy, which we rightly saw in Fianna Fáil as an attack on middle Ireland,” he said.

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