Labour Party member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has called for the Taoiseach to unequivocally commit to holding a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the month of May.
Ahead of the Dáil debate, Deputy O’Sullivan said: “Public statements up to very recently have set May as the intended month for the referendum. I am really concerned to hear that change to “May or early June”. The committee adhered to its timetable and produced its report on December 20th on schedule; the Government should stick to its dates too.
“Early June is the start of the Leaving Certificate for thousands of young people of voting age and thousands more adults who have returned to education. It is also the time when third level students head off to work abroad or in parts of Ireland away from their voting address.
“Abortion is an issue that interests young people and they haven’t had the opportunity to cast a vote on it, in fact nobody under the age of fifty three has had a chance to have their say at the ballot box on the Eighth Amendment.
“It appears the suggested cause of delay is the need to get legal advice from the Attorney General. This is perfectly understandable. However, there have been extensive legal discussions already, in the public arena, both in the context of the deliberations of the Citizens’ Assembly and of the Oireachtas Committee. The Government has been aware of the Constitutional considerations for some time and I don’t see why the Attorney General’s office would not have been able to do preparatory work which would facilitate speedy advice to the Government.
“We simply cannot defer the opportunity to finally let the people decide, after thirty four years, whether the complex issue of abortion should be a matter for a clause in the Constitution or for legislation and medically supervised care.
“More than five thousand Irish women every year, from every county, are procuring abortions in another country or by breaking the criminal law through taking pills bought on line. This is the reality of Irish abortion. It is a very lonely place for thousands of Irish women and we have been sentencing Irish women to lonely places for long enough.
“I believe we can’t ignore that reality any more. My view, and it is the proposal I put to the Oireachtas committee and which was agreed, is that the simple question put to the people should be to Repeal Article 40.3.3. of Bunreacht na hÉireann. That referendum should be held in May.” She concluded.
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