Unlike previous nights during this debate, the majority of speakers opposed repeal the controversial 1983 amendment.
Fianna Fáil’s public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said while he welcomed holding a referendum, the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment was “a leap too far for me”.
“As found by the Supreme Court two weeks ago, the only right of the unborn is the right to life and we are seeking to take it away.”
He said leaving it up to the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion was “byzantine”.
Mr Calleary differed from many who criticised the Oireachtas committee, which was accused of pro-choice bias, saying the committee did the work many others chose to walk away from.
“The committee have done a lot of work and they took on work that many of us passed on,” he said. “Much of the criticisms of them are unfair.”
Former ceann comhairle Sean Barrett, who was Government chief whip in 1983, spoke of the highly toxic atmosphere which engulfed the campaign 35 years ago.
He said he would not support repealing the Eighth Amendment but would support holding a referendum.
Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said he would support repeal and allowing for access to terminations up to the 12th week of pregnancy, adding that the proposal was proportionate and backed up by medical advice.
Sinn Fein’s justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the proposed 12- week limit is the only truly compassionate way of legislating for instances of rape, fatal foetal abnormality and incest. While other ways may be available in theory, none of them are compassionate. The proposal for a 12-week limit is the only compassionate way to deal with this issue.
However, his party colleague, Peadar Tóibín, said Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty’s recent remarks, when she talked about a possible second referendum if the pending vote on the Eighth fails, amounted to a “slap in the face to the people”.