Ministers expected to formally approve holding referendum on 8th amendment

A special Cabinet meeting is due to take place this evening

Ministers expected to formally approve holding referendum on 8th amendment

Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Leah Farrell/

The Cabinet is likely to formally approve holding a referendum on the 8th amendment at a special meeting this evening.

Ministers will decide the approach to what question will be put to the people.

They are set to give the Health Minister permission to draft the referendum bill, and the provisional legislation on what abortion laws would take effect if the 8th amendment was repealed.

The 8th amendment states: "The states acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right." 

The Cabinet is thought to favour a 'repeal and replace' approach - which would see the public voting on repealing the 8th amendment and inserting a clause into the Constitution that would allow the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.

The thinking behind that is to make any legal challenges to new abortion laws less likely to succeed.

The Attorney General will brief the cabinet on his take on what the question should be.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he'll make his personal views on abortion fully clear after the meeting this evening.

Over the weekend, the Taoiseach confirmed that he will campaign to liberalise Ireland's abortion laws.

Speaking on BBC Radio, he said: "As I’ve said on many occasions, I believe Ireland’s abortion laws are too restrictive and need to be liberalised."

He added: "I think even people who are in favour of abortion in certain circumstances are pro-life.

"I still believe in life but I understand there are circumstances under which pregnancies can't continue."

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice