"Once in a generation opportunity" - Taoiseach insists there will be no second referendum

Leo Varadkar says the abortion issue has no place in the Constitution

"Once in a generation opportunity" - Taoiseach insists there will be no second referendum

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvassing in Dublin city centre, 15-05-2018. Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

The Taoiseach has described tomorrow's Referendum on the Eighth Amendment as a "once in a generation opportunity."

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Leo Varadkar said he remains hopeful of a ‘Yes’ vote – but insisted he would “never be complacent at all” before the votes are counted.

Insisting that there will not be another abortion referendum if the 'No' side wins - he said voters are being offered a once in a generation opportunity to have their say.

He said it is “very evident” that the Eighth Amendment is not working with too many “hard cases” being decided in the courts.

“I don’t believe issues around women’s health should be decided in the courts,” he said.

“They should be decided between women and their doctors and so many of those very difficult cases over the last few years have ended up in the courts

“Then there is just the simple fact that, since the Eighth Amendment was put into our Constitution, 170,000 women have travelled to another jurisdiction to end their pregnancy.”

Disingenuous

He labelled claims that the ‘No’ side would have supported more moderate abortion plans make up “the most disingenuous argument” that he has seen in the campaign.

“We have people who believe in the Eighth Amendment; have defended it unreservedly and to the hilt for the past 35 years and then all of a sudden, two or three days; four days before the Referendum, they throw out this idea that there is some sort of middle way. That there is some sort of alternative amendment,” he said.

“If that was the case why haven’t they come up with it? Why haven’t the published it? Why haven’t they said that they would support it?

“Even when they are asked about it, the best you can get them to say is that they might look at it.

“We have looked at this. We have looked at this for over two years now.

“There is no perfect solution – but this is the best option.”

Black and white

He said the issue is not black and white and cannot be governed through the Constitution.

“I do understand that there are people who see it in that way; who have an absolutist view on this – and at least they are intellectually honest.

“They believe that a 14-year-old girl who becomes pregnant should be forced to go through with their pregnancy.

“They believe that somebody who is the victim of rape should be forced to carry that pregnancy to term.

“They believe that if a couple have the devastating diagnosis that the much-wanted child that they are carrying is not going to survive outside the womb, they don’t want to give those people the choice to end the pregnancy early.

“But I don’t think it is black and white.

“I think most people understand that there are a lot of grey areas in this issue and rather than being about absolute rights – that is what you put in the Constitution, absolute rights – you need to have a balance of rights.

“A balance of rights between the woman and the unborn; between her wishes and the rights of the unborn – and that is best done in legislation.”

On demand

On Newstalk Breakfast however Love Both spokesperson Cora Sherlock said the proposed legislation allowing for abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy amounts to abortion on demand.

She called on voters to retain the Eighth Amendment.

"I very firmly believe that a woman or a family that are told that there baby may not live for very long deserve to be given the time and space to be considered in a way and talked about in a way that does not involve the kind of abortion on demand that we all know this turns into," she said.

"This is about one thing and one thing only - about abortion on demand."

Once in a lifetime

Mr Varadkar insisted that there will not be another referendum if the country votes ‘No’ – insisting Friday’s vote is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“You can never say what will happen in 10 or 20 years or 30 years time – I can’t predict that far ahead.

“But this went through a very detailed process involving the Citizens’ Assembly, involving an all-party committee and we are now putting the question to the people.

“We will respect the people’s decision whatever it is.”