Citizens’ Assembly will take longer to discuss abortion

The Citizens’ Assembly has been given extra time to consider the issue of the eighth amendment.

Citizens’ Assembly will take longer to discuss abortion

The assembly has voted to set aside an additional weekend to consider recommendations around the eighth amendment.

Chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said “it became absolutely obvious that we needed an additional weekend”.

However, she promised that this would not impact on the commitment to report back to the Oireachtas within the first half of 2017.

She added the assembly had received approximately 13,000 submissions — around 8,000 of these received via email while more than 5,000 were posted.

Ms Justice Laffoy said the large number of submissions proved the “high level of public engagement with the issue”.

She added that it would take four to six weeks before all submissions are available online.

The Pro Life Campaign had said it was “nonsensical” to expect the assembly to consider the large volume of submissions it received from the public in such a short time before making recommendations to the Oireachtas.

Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman Cora Sherlock said: “With the current time frame, there is no way the assembly will have the time needed to take an exhaustive look at the issue.”

Each of the 99 ordinary members of the assembly were yesterday given 10 minutes to answer questions and provide their opinion around possible changes to the Eighth Amendment.

Ms Justice Laffoy later delivered “a flavour of the responses” at a public session.

Concluding the meeting she told members of the assembly: “The task ahead of us is a large one.”

In the coming weeks, the assembly will reflect on a wide range of issues relating to the eighth amendment including the complex and difficult area of rape, as well as legal terminations in other jurisdictions.

Members will also hear a number of personal stories and advocacy groups will be invited to provide presentations.

In total, five weekends will now focus on the eighth amendment.

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