"The time has come to allow Irish people to have their say" - Taoiseach on abortion referendum

The Tánaiste says people should be talking "in a respectful tone"

"The time has come to allow Irish people to have their say" - Taoiseach on abortion referendum

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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says it is time for the Irish people to have their say on the issue of abortion.

On Wednesday, the Oireachtas committee looking at the 8th amendment recommended abortions be allowed for any reason up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

They also voted to decriminalise abortion and to repeal the 8th amendment.

They will now put together a final report next week and the Oireachtas will consider legislation.

The Fine Gael Parliamnetry Party will meet in early January, followed by a Dáil debate.

The Taoiseach has said he is hoping a referendum can be held in May next year.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said: "This is a decision really for the Irish people, and I believe the time has come to allow Irish people to have their say on this issue.

"But I'll be doing my best to make sure that the debate that we have is respectful and civilised - and I think that's really important".

The Health Minister Simon Harris is to begin working with the Attorney-General on the wording of potential supplementary legislation on abortion.

Meanwhile Tánaiste Simon Coveney is appealing to people to discuss the referendum with respect.

He has also confirmed they would be looking to expedite legislation to repeal the 8th amendment.

Minister Coveney said they are working on a timetable to allow the referendum to take place in May.

"This is an issue that is going to divide household across the country - I think people should be talking in a respectful tone about both sides of this argument in an effort to try and advance a consensus across the country that can result in a successful referendum.

"What the Government will do here is yes, we will of course prioritise and try to expedite legislation to try to facilitate the timeline that the Taoiseach I know wants the Government to follow".

Additional reporting: Nicole Gernon