Simon Coveney denies abortion u-turn

A date for the 8th amendment referendum could be known on Wednesday

Simon Coveney denies abortion u-turn

File photo of Tánaiste Simon Coveney in Leinster House | Image: Sam Boal/

Updated: 10.50

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has denied doing a u-turn on abortion.

It follows his decision to back unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks into pregnancy after initial reservations.

The Cabinet approved draft laws on Tuesday that they would try to bring in if the 8th amendment is repealed.

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Minister Coveney said they have allayed his fears.

"I don't categorise it as a u-turn at all - I couldn't support the 12 weeks proposal unless it was accompanied with what we got yesterday now from the Minister for Health, which is a very strict and detailed protocol which involves a lot more time for consideration."

It is also likely we will find out the date of the abortion referendum later on Wednesday.

The Seanad is expected to pass the final stages of the referendum bill later.

The May 25th had been suggested as the probable date for the public to go to the polls.

But Mr Coveney has suggested it could happen a week earlier than expected.

"Once the legislation passes through the Seanad we'll be able to announce a date at that stage.

"There are two possible dates that we're looking at towards the end of May.

"Not necessarily the last Friday - it could be the second last Friday".

Future abortion laws

It comes as the Attorney-General has been asked to look at ways to make sure if abortion laws are ever re-visited in the future, they would get more scrutiny than regular legislation.

The move is being seen as a way to address concerns raised by Mr Coveney.

On Tuesday Mr Coveney went into Cabinet asking that if any new abortion laws were to come in, it would require two-thirds of the Oireachtas to vote in favour of changing them again.

But he was quickly, and publicly, shot down by the Taoiseach.

"The Attorney-General advises me that it would be contrary to article 15 of the Constitution, and therefore could not be included in this legislation - and therefore will not be".

But playing to Mr Coveney's concerns, the Attorney-General Seamus Woulfe has been asked to see if there is a way of giving future abortion laws special status, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

"What the Attorney-General has been asked to do is... to look at seeing if there is a way of outlining if the Irish people or if the Irish people's representatives decided they wanted to revisit elements of this in the future, that there would be a process in place that would be above and beyond that of changing a regular law".

"And I've already outlined some of those examples - this time we've seen a Citizens' Assembly, we've seen an Oireachtas all-party committee".

The Government on Tuesday approved the heads of bill of the legislation they will try to bring in if the 8th amendment is repealed.

With reporting by Sean Defoe