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09.59 20 Mar 2018


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Updated: 20.35

The Dáil has returned from its St Patrick’s Day break a day early to discuss the upcoming vote on the 8th amendment.

A debate on the abortion referendum bill is underway in the Dáil and is expected to continue until midnight.

TDs will sit late again on Wednesday in a bid to get the bill passed before the Easter break.

Health Minister Simon Harris said if this can be done, the country will still be on track to have the referendum in late May.

Fianna Fail TD Lisa Chambers said repealing the 8th amendment will not lead to abortion for pregnancies where there is a disability.

Deputy Chambers said it is not the case that the Oireachtas Committee on abortion sought to introduce abortion in the case of a disability.

"On the committee we debated this issue, we took a vote on this issue - and we voted categorically against disability being a ground for termination.

"It is not part of this debate, it should not be part of this debate.

"And many families and many parents of children with disabilities and children with Down Syndrome have come out to sat they are utterly disgusted that their children are being used in this way and in this campaign - and I think it is totally wrong".

While Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín outlined why he will not be supporting his party's position of campaigning to repeal the 8th amendment.

He aid removing the right to life of the unborn was one of a number of Government policies that hurt children.

He claimed austerity measures had forced more women to opt for an abortion.

Deputy Tóibín told the Dáil that the Government's priorities are all wrong.

"So what does it say about a particular Government that at a time where hundreds of thousands of children are living in crisis amongst us now, that the next seven months of the Government's time would be consumed by deleting the rights to life of the unborn child".

"Factual and impartial information"

Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning , the Health Minister Simon Harris said he still believes it will be possible to hold the vote in May.

“Out of fairness to all of our citizens, I think the importance of having factual and impartial information so people can make an informed decision is something we can surely all agree on,” he said.

“So I think if we can pass the bill through both houses of the Oireachtas before the Easter break; that would give the Referendum Commission a good period of time to run a public information campaign that could provide our citizens with factual impartial information.”

The 8th amendment provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

The bill TDs are debating will outline the exact wording of the question that is to be put to the electorate.

Voters will be asked whether to retain or repeal the 8th amendment – with the Oireachtas empowered to legislate in the event of repeal.

Additional reporting: Jack Quann


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