Citizens' Assembly on 8th Amendment is 'absolutely not a stalling tactic' - Simon Harris

UN report found woman was subjected to "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment" after being denied abortion in Ireland

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Simon Harris. Image:

The Health Minister has denied that setting up a Citizens' Assembly to consider repealing the 8th Amendment on abortion is a stalling tactic.

An UN ruling published yesterday called Ireland’s stance on abortion cruel, inhuman and degrading in its treatment of women with non-viable pregnancies. 

The judgment found that Amanda Mellet suffered "severe emotional and mental pain" after being denied an abortion here.

Independent experts attached to the UN Human Rights Committee said it was a direct result of Ireland's legal prohibition on abortion and called for changes to prevent this happening again.

In a statement yesterday, Mrs Mellet said: "Subjecting women to so much additional pain and trauma simply must not continue."

The same-sex marriage referendum proposed at the last citizens' convention in 2013 took place two years after the recommendation. 

Simon Harris today denied the Government is abdicating its responsibility to a Citizens' Assembly, saying the move is "quite the opposite" of a stalling tactic.

"There's absolutely no doubt the views very clearly expressed by the UN yesterday will now need to form part of the work of that Citizens' Assembly," he said, adding the Government is planning to have it established in six months.

But Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted the assembly is designed to delay the matter.

"The history of dealing with this issue is a history of stalling by the State and politicians. That now has to stop," she said. 

Speaking this afternoon, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters it is important to determine "what level of consensus there might be for change" to the Constitution's 8th Amendment.