Taoiseach plays down possibility of free government vote on 8th amendment bill

Enda Kenny called for the newly formed Citizens’ Assembly to be allowed time to do its work

Enda Kenny, Brexit, united Ireland, East Germany, negotiations, MacGill Summer School

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a press conference of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in Dublin Castle | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach has downplayed the possibility of a free vote for government ministers on an upcoming bill calling for a referendum on the 8th amendment.

The bill put forward by People Before Profit and the Anti Austerity Alliance is due for debate in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of the annual Fine Gael Presidential Dinner this evening, Mr Kenny said it is his “strong view” that the Citizens’ Assembly – which met for the first time last week – should be allowed to do its work and report back to the Oireachtas.

“The lifetime of the Citizens’ Assembly is for 12 months but the first issue it will look at is the 8th Amendment – due to report back before the end of June 2017,” he said.

It has been reported that members of the Independent Alliance have been pushing for a free vote on the issue – just as they had on the fatal foetal abnormalities bill in July.

The independents have also suggested a countermotion which would introduce a deadline for the assembly to report back on the subject.

The Taoiseach said the matter would be discussed with Cabinet ministers ahead of the debate on Tuesday.

Mr Kenny said supporting the bill would mean going against the Citizens Assembly - which was introduced as part of the Programme for Government:

Mr Kenny said the Assembly is “completely independent in its work” with no directions from Government or the Oireachtas.

He said nobody under the age of 50 has ever had the opportunity to vote on the issue and warned that if the bill is successful there would be a referendum without any talk of what might come after.

The bill is set to be supported by both Sinn Fein and Labour with Fianna Fail TDs given a free vote on the issue.