Mr Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said it is his “expectation” that a vote will be held on the issue.
His comments came after the UN criticised Ireland’s abortion laws, calling on the Government to legislate to make abortion available in the cases of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormalities.
Fine Gael had promised in their pre-election manifesto that a citizen’s convention would be held on the issue of the Eighth Amendment.
However, it is understood that Independent TD and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone lobbied the party and, in advance of backing Enda Kenny’s nomination for Taoiseach, received promises from Fine Gael that this would go ahead. This could put more pressure on the Government to speed up a vote on repealing the Eighth Amendment, which currently gives equal status to the mother and her unborn child.
Mr O’Donohoe told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “The Fine Gael position on that during the general election continues to be the case. We are committed to putting in place the same process that we did in relation to marriage equality that led to a referendum there. So what we will set up will be a citizen’s assembly to deliver on the matter that will lead to proposals that the Oireachtas may consider and vote upon.
“My expectation is that there will be one, and the process that we have put in place is designed to look at what is a sensitive matter in a careful way.”
Cora Sherlock, of the Pro Life campaign, said that the group was disappointed by the comments, adding: “Our laws protect and respect human life. We shouldn’t be denuding or we shouldn’t be defensive about our laws.”
However, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties executive director, Mark Kelly, said: “The Irish Council for Civil Liberties believes that it is now incumbent upon the Government to publish its full blueprint for the new Citizen’s Assembly on Repeal of the Eighth Amendment that the Tánaiste yesterday promised the United Nations would be up and running within six months.”
A number of politicians have recently campaigned strongly in favour of repealing the Eighth, including Labour members, Independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, and Joan Collins, as well as the Green Party, Sinn Féin, and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People before Profit.
Mr Donohoe went further with his comments in committing to a referendum in the “coming years” while speaking on Newstalk’s Breakfast show.
“What I am certain will happen first is the process that we have committed to in relation to considering this issue — that will happen — and it is my view that that will lead to a referendum on this issue in the coming years,” he said.
Asked about the programme for government published earlier this week Mr Donohoe said a number of “key areas” put forward by Fianna Fáil have been included in the document.