No changes on abortion law, UN told

NO changes to the law on abortion are planned, the Government told a United Nations hearing on women’s rights yesterday.

In a statement to deflect criticisms that the unresolved legal situation around abortion puts Irish women at a disadvantage, Equality Minister Frank Fahey said there were “few issues on which there has been greater national dialogue than this one.”

“All told, Ireland has held five separate referenda on three separate occasions on the issue of abortion. The Government has no plans to put further proposals in this regard to the people at this time,” he said.

Mr Fahey was addressing the UN Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which Ireland signed up to 20 years ago. The Committee is examining whether signatories are complying with the Convention.

“I have not come here today to tell you that women in Ireland have achieved the level of equality with men that we all desire, because they haven’t.

"But I have come to say that in a short space of time, we have made dramatic strides and that we are well placed to address the remaining deficits where they exist,” he told the committee.

The Minister pointed out that female employment stood at 56%, up from 40% in 2004 and just one percentage point below the EU target for this year of 57%.

In education, women were outperforming men except in management roles. They accounted for 52% of all third level entrants, 65% of law graduates, 82% in health studies and 60% in business and administration.

Women’s participation on State Boards and Committees was now 32%, compared to 15% in 1992, and the Minister said the Government’s target of 40% would be met.

More women were involved in local politics (19%) and the European Parliament (38%), but he agreed the 13% of Dáil seats held by women was unacceptably low.

On domestic violence, Mr Fahey said: “The Irish Government attaches great importance to its elimination. The Government will take the measures necessary to eliminate the scourge of domestic violence from our society.”

The Minister also defended the Government’s record on childcare provision but acknowledged that “more needs to be done.”

He was responding to criticisms made by Irish women’s groups in presentations before the Committee earlier this week. The delegation comprised representatives from groups including the National Women’s Council, Women’s Aid, Pavee Point, the Women’s Human Rights Alliance and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

The Committee will produce a progress report and will make recommendations for Government action to ensure full compliance with the Convention.

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