Eighth Amendment referendum to be held on May 25th

The referendum bill passed through the Seanad this afternoon

Eighth Amendment referendum to be held on May 25th

Image: Sean Defoe

A referendum on the Eighth Amendment will be held on May 25th.

The Government officially set the date after the referendum bill was passed in the Seanad this afternoon.

Speaking before the upper house voted on the bill this afternoon, Health Minister Simon Harris noted that, despite opposition to the referendum plans, no alternative legislation had been tabled by any party.

The bill was passed easily in the end by a margin of 40 votes to 10.

A number of government ministers were on hand to officially announce the poll:

The Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy took the opportunity to ask people to check the register to ensure they are entitled to vote in the place where they ordinarily live.

He said polling booths will be open from 7am to 10pm.

He said a supplementary register will be opened so anyone who is not currently registered can sign up.

"Make sure you are registered to vote and go out and use your vote on Friday the 25th of May in this very important referendum," he said.

Minister Harris welcomed the fact that the people will have the opportunity to have their say on "this deeply personal and private matter" by this summer.

"I think after weeks and months of politicians debating this issue and politicians talking to each other; committee hearings, Dáil debates, Seanad debate - now the people of Ireland get to have their say," he said. 

Members of the public will be asked whether to repeal the amendment - which recognises the right to life of the unborn - and allow the Oireachtas to legislate on abortion.

The Dáil yesterday approved the draft legislation that will be brought in if referendum is passed.

The legislation will allow for abortion without restriction up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

Seventy-two hours will have to pass between a woman seeking an abortion and it being carried out.

After the first three months of pregnancy, terminations will only be allowed where there is a fatal foetal abnormality or a risk to the life or health of the mother.

Where there is a risk to the life or health of the mother and the foetus is judged by doctors to be viable - the pregnancy would be ended through early delivery "with a full medical team on hand."

Minister Harris has also brought forward a package of measures aimed at reducing pregnancy in Ireland. The package includes measures aimed at increasing access to obstetric care, counselling, and contraception.