Leo Varadkar defends Citizens' Assembly as government wins vote to stop abortion bill

The Social Protection Minister says the assembly is where the marriage equality referendum started

Leo Varadkar defends Citizens' Assembly as government wins vote to stop abortion bill

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated: 15:30

The government has won a Dáil vote to stop an opposition bill which would have led to a referendum on the 8th amendment.

TDs voted 96 to 47 in favour of the so-called "reasoned amendment" which stopped a vote on the bill itself.

Fianna Fáil offered its 43 TDs a free vote, but only five of its deputies wanted the bill to proceed.

Earlier this week, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar defended the Citizens' Assembly, saying that it is where the marriage equality referendum started.

Minister Varadkar argued that the vote over same-sex marriage was considered by a convention before being called.

He also said the legislation replacing the 8th amendment needs to be properly considered, saying some campaigners are calling for a repeal without considering the constitutional aspects.

"If you look at the marriage equality referendum, that started in a citizen's convention, and then it was put back to the Oireachtas," he said. "That took a period of time, but I think we got it right."

Speaking at the annual Fine Gael presidential dinner earlier this week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "The first meeting has already taken place of the Citizens' Assembly, so in that sense the lifetime of the Citizens' Assembly is for 12 months".

"But the first issue it will look at is the 8th amendment - (which is) due to report back before the end of June 2017."

The Independent Alliance had suggested tabling a counter motion, which would introduce a deadline for the new Citizens' Assembly to report back on the subject.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith previously challenged the government to prosecute her for possessing tablets which could be used to cause an abortion.