Taoiseach: Oireachtas committee examining 8th amendment will be set up 'within fortnight'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Oireachtas committee tasked with examining the wide-reaching Citizens' Assembly abortion recommendations will be set up within "the next week or fortnight".

Taoiseach: Oireachtas committee examining 8th amendment will be set up 'within fortnight'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Oireachtas committee tasked with examining the wide-reaching Citizens' Assembly abortion recommendations will be set up within "the next week or fortnight".

However, he also said that "a lot of discussion" is needed before a referendum vote, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

In his first public comments since the assembly recommended drastic amends to the eighth amendment, Mr Kenny said there is a need to discuss the findings as soon as possible, adding that the changes could "of course require a referendum".

Speaking to reporters, Mr Kenny commended the work of assembly chair Justice Mary Laffoy and its 99 members as they have provided detailed recommendations to be examined.

He said the special Oireachtas committee, to be comprised of 20 TDs and senators from all political parties, set up to examine these recommendations from June needs to be set up now and that this will happen in the first half of May.

"The report will be sent to the Oireachtas committee, which I hope we can get set up now in the next week or fortnight, as agreed with 20 members.

"Clearly, if there is any recommended change to the constitution, of course it requires a referendum, but I think it is a matter of explaining what are the issues of the Citizens' Assembly debated upon, what were the decisions they made, and what those decisions might actually mean.

"A lot of discussion will take place on that over the weeks ahead," he said.

While the assembly decided on Saturday to recommend amending the eighth amendment rather than seeking its repeal, in a series of additional votes on the finer details on Sunday it said a series of wide-reaching changes should take place.

These include 64% of assembly members' seeking terminations without any restrictions, two thirds saying abortions should be decriminalised, 48% saying abortions within 12 weeks should be allowed, and 44% saying the same up to 22 weeks.

The assembly members also voted for terminations for 13 separate reasons - including rape, foetal abnormalities, and socio-economic issues - with almost three quarters of members (72%) saying there should be no distinction between the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman.

The recommendations will be formally provided to the Oireachtas by June, before the Oireachtas committee is given six months to deliberate on what action to take.

While there are growing suggestions this will lead to a spring 2018 referendum vote, TDs have raised concerns about whether a referendum on the assembly recommendations would pass.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will give members a free vote in the Oireachtas committee and on subsequent Dáil votes, while Sinn Féin will impose the whip.

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