Katherine Zappone: Straight ‘repeal or not’ question must be put to voters

The Government cannot be allowed to “back-slide” on the historic Oireachtas abortion committee recommendations and must put a straight repeal-or-not question to voters in the planned summer referendum.

Children’s Minister and long-time abortion campaigner Katherine Zappone demanded the action as she separately said she “expects” Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to campaign in favour of a repeal vote, regardless of his personal views.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the unaligned Independent TD said as both the citizens’ assembly and the Oireachtas abortion committee recommended repealing the Eighth Amendment and replacing it with legislation, this plan must now be acted on.

Insisting the Government has no right to ignore the recommendations, Ms Zappone said once the Dáil and Seanad debate the Oireachtas abortion committee findings later this month, the Government must allow a straight repeal-or-not referendum.

Asked about campaigner concerns Government could “back-slide” on the recommendations at next week’s cabinet meeting or at a later stage, Ms Zappone said: “I would certainly want to see Government put the recommendation to the people of a straight repeal, for all the reasons the committee has recommended.

“Regardless of the diverse views around the [cabinet] table, all of those people agreed to the process which had a representative group [the citizens’ assembly] in the first place and then parliamentarians.

“Both of those processes came with the view and desire the Eighth Amendment is gone and parliament is given the power to legislate. So I would expect a respect for that.”

Ms Zappone said Mr Varadkar has his own personal choice to make, but said his high position means she “expects” him to ultimately back the Government’s referendum question.

“If the leader of the Government is putting a choice to the people to repeal or obviously not to repeal, and if we as a Government decide to put to the people repeal of not repeal, I think it’s reasonable for the people to expect the leadership of the Taoiseach to campaign in relation to his own view on that,” she said.

An opinion poll, last week, suggests 53% of people would support a straight repeal vote in a referendum and legislation allowing unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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