UN criticises Ireland on abortion but no date set for referendum

Minister Paschal Donohoe has stopped short of saying when there will be an abortion referendum after Ireland was criticised for its human rights record by a United Nations Committee.

Despite Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald facing a backlash in Geneva yesterday for Ireland’s record on forcing rape and incest victims and women with fatal foetal abnormalities, to give birth – there was still no movement from the Government on the 8th Amendment.

Global pressure is clearly weighing down on the state to give women the rights to dictate what occurs to their own bodies after conception.

The UN committee called for serious legal reforms, including the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the decriminalisation of abortion.


Mr Donohoe told Newstalk this morning he thinks our abortion laws will be put to a public vote in the near future – clearly stopping short of setting any time frame.

“There will be a referendum in relation to that matter in the coming years,” he said.

“But what I am certain will happen first is the process that we have committed to in relation to considering this issue – that will happen – and it is my view that that will lead to a referendum on this issue in the coming years”.

The failure of successive governments to repeal anti-abortion laws was raised by 18 member states.

Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

They called on Ireland to compy with international human rights standards by making terminations accessible to women in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

Canada said Irish women should have the right to decide “the number, spacing and timing of their children”, while other countries were concerned  the Eighth Amendment discriminated against those who cannot afford to travel for a safe and legal termination.

The U.S also raised concerns about criminal charges women face for having abortions within the state, and called for the medical procedure to be decriminalised.

“Abortion continues to be a very live issue in Ireland and we recognise the need for our discourse to be respectful of differing views,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

The programme for government only briefly mentions the Eighth Amendment and says the issue will be included in a citizen’s assembly, with other matters such as the ageing population, fixed-term parliaments and how to hold future referendums. The UN also called for better reproductive and sexual health education in Irish schools.

A majority of UN member also criticised the Irish delegation for failing to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, despite signing the convention in 2007 and committing to ratify it in 2011 when Ireland first appeared before the committee.

Ms Fitzgerald said the new government would ratify the CRPD by the end of this year.

Paschal Donohoe talking on Newstalk Breakfast:

Twenty countries at the UN questioned Ireland’s failure to take meaningful steps to bring its abortion laws in line with international human rights standards – including Denmark and the United States.

Cora Sherlock is spokesperson for the Pro Life Campaign. She told Newstalk Breakfast they are frustrated at the calls for a referendum:

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