There will be an abortion referendum "in the coming years" - Paschal Donohoe

Ireland's current laws have been again criticised by the United Nations

Abortion, Ireland, United Nations, Paschal Donohoe, Frances Fitzgerald, Citizen's Convention

Paschal Donohoe arrives at Leinster House in Dublin | Image:

A Fine Gael minister says he believes there will be a referendum on abortion in the coming years.

But newly-appointed Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Paschal Donohoe says he is "certain" the 8th amendment will go before a Citizen's Convention first.

It comes as the United Nations has criticised Irish abortion laws - saying that we need to to comply with international standards on abortion by making it available to women in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

Amnesty International Ireland has welcomed a commitment from Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald that Ireland's abortion laws will be reviewed.

Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at Ireland's Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Ireland's human rights record was examined by other UN member states for the second time.

"The issue of abortion continues to be a very live issue in Ireland and we recognize the need for our discourse to be respectful of differing views", Ms Fitzgerald told the UN body yesterday.

"Recent public debate has concentrated on extending the law on abortion to cover cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or cases where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape to a broader legal regime that allows abortion where the health of a woman is of concern".

"The Government have made a commitment in the most recent Programme for Government to establish a Citizen's Assembly to make recommendations to the Dáil on further Constitutional changes and they will consider the 8th amendment as part of this work", she added.

While Mr Donohoe says he thinks our abortion laws will be put to a public vote in the near future.

"There will be a referendum in relation to that matter in the coming years", he told Newstalk Breakfast.

"But what I am certain will happen first is the process that we have committed to in relation to considering this issue - that will happen - and it is my view that that will lead to a referendum on this issue in the coming years".

Twenty countries at the UN questioned Ireland's failure to take meaningful steps to bring its abortion laws in line with international human rights standards - including Denmark and the United States.

Cora Sherlock is spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign. She says they are frustrated at the calls for a referendum.