Government ponders additional clause for referendum

The Government has yet to receive legal advice on the wording of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment and are still mulling over whether an additional clause will be added.

While the Oireachtas abortion committee recommended a repeal simpliciter with legislation to follow, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suggested that a provision be inserted to avoid a potential challenge to legislation Government may try to enact afterwards.

The Citizens Assembly suggested that an enabling provision specifying that legislation in this area is the “sole prerogative” of the Oireachtas and not the courts be included.

Over the weekend, abortion committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone said she did not understand why Government would go against the committee’s recommendation and seek to introduce an enabling clause.

However, minister of state at the Department of Housing Damien English said no decision has been made as Cabinet are still waiting advice from the Attorney General around the best wording to bring forward.

He told RTE’s The Week in Politics: “I think that’s why the Taoiseach is wise to hold of on his view of this until the wording is presented, because his job as Taoiseach will be to guide this through the Cabinet and to bring it through Cabinet, through the Oireachtas and the Irish people.

“At the end of the day, I think the Irish people will decide this.”

He said the hopes would be that Cabinet could reach a decision by the end of January after being briefed on the draft wording of the referendum.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris, who has been tasked with drawing up the wording of a referendum, said full legal advice has yet to be received.

“The Government and the AG are currently considering all legal issues. The Minister for Health expects to be in a position to recommend to Government an approach regarding wording at the end of the month.

“It is clear that if the Government decided to have a referendum this summer that the proposition to the people will be to repeal the eighth amendment. How best to set out that proposition will be considered by Cabinet shortly.”

Meanwhile Oireachtas committee member Lisa Chambers said she was not as surprised as many that Micheál Martin has publicly supported a repeal.

But the Fianna Fáil TD added: “I was surprised to see that he went as far as endorsing the report in its entirety and I very much welcome that.

“I am proud of him that day as my party leader and he delivered what I would consider a very brave courageous speech.”

In the wake of the speech a number of Fianna Fáil members criticised Mr Martin, including Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward who intends to arrange a meeting of Oireachtas party members opposed to a repeal this week.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said it would be “extraordinary” that there would be any attempt to stop a referendum being held by senators or TDs who may be against repeal.

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