Taoiseach Confirms 2018 Abortion Referendum

Repealers rejoice: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that there will be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year.

Leo Varadkar sitting with members of his cabinets
Image: RTÉ

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, the Taoiseach confirmed that there will be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year, and that Minister for Health Simon Harris would be responsible for bringing forward the necessary amendments.

Varadkar named his Cabinet in the Dáil last night, announcing a number of new ministers and plans to combine the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

In his first Dáil speech since being elected Taoiseach, Varadkar paid tribute to Enda Kenny saying that the former Fine Gael leader made it possible for him to be an equal citizen in his own country due to 2015’s same-sex marriage referendum.

After taking the reins of the Fine Gael leadership at the beginning of June, Varadkar faced calls from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone (among others) to speed up plans for a referendum on abortion and the Eighth Amendment.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the announcement of plans for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, but called on the Taoiseach to have it “early” in the new year.

The planned referendum follows on from consultation with the Citizen’s Assembly, which in April voted overwhelmingly for abortion to be available in Ireland. 64 percent said yes to abortion with no restrictions.

The Assembly also voted that the 8th Amendment should be replaced “with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn, and any rights of the pregnant woman.”

“It’s very clear from the outcome that there is a huge appetite for progressive change,” said Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, after the Citizen’s Assembly recommendations earlier this year.

Pro Life campaigners are set to stage a demonstration called ‘Rally for Life’ in Dublin city centre on Saturday, July 1, as are pro-choice campaigners, who will stage a ‘Rally for Choice‘ (described as a static protest localised around the Spire) at the same time.


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