Irish citizens' assembly recommends change to abortion laws

An anti-abortion protest outside the Grand Hotel in Dublin where the citizens’ assembly has held meetingsSAM BOAL

An anti-abortion protest outside the Grand Hotel in Dublin where the citizens’ assembly has held meetingsSAM BOAL

The Citizens Assembly has voted by an overwhelming majority to recommend that a referendum should be held on the constitutional strict limitations on abortion in Ireland.

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution protects the "right to life of the unborn", and termination is illegal in Ireland in all but the most exceptional circumstances, where there is a "real and substantial risk" to the mother's life.

In the first of a series of votes by members on whether to advise constitutional reform the assembly voted 87% in favour of change.

Voting in any ballot set to take place today will be in secret and the counting of the papers will be overseen by Mr. John Fitzpatrick, the former Returning Officer for County Dublin and his team.

In this vote 56% of members voted that the article should be replaced or amended.

Although the Assembly has provision for a membership of 100, five had stepped down before today's meeting and a further four were absent this morning.

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Sunday will see the assembly vote for the last time on the issue of abortion before the final report of the Assembly is drafted. Just before lunch, Ms Justice Laffoy announced that one of those was now in attendance.

The change suggested by the Citizens' Assembly - if the Oireachtas chooses to act on the recommendations of the assembly - would see citizens vote on whether to delegate the decision on abortion legislation to the politicians in the Dáil and the Seanad. Anti-abortion supporters want no further changes to the law.

On Saturday, Judge Laffoy said the result of the vote provided a mandate for changing the status quo and, if implemented by the government, it would require a constitutional referendum, the Irish Times reported.

Update 12.20pm: The results for the first ballot at the Citizens Assembly are in.

She added that she hoped "everything will go ahead in a less fractious manner tomorrow".

Following this weekends vote, a report will be prepared by the Chairperson of the Citizens Assembly for the Oireachtas, which is due to be published by the end of June this year at the latest.

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