O’Sullivan: Constitutional ban on abortion must be ‘revisited’

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

Minister Jan O'Sullivan says the debate on abortion should be revisited
IRELAND’S constitutional provisions on abortion should be “revisited”, according to Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.

IRELAND’S constitutional provisions on abortion should be “revisited”, according to Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.

And the Irish people were increasingly questioning whether the eighth amendment - which values the life of the mother and the life of the unborn equally - “serves us well in difficult cases” like that decided in the High Court last week, said the Limerick TD.

Not strictly an abortion case, doctors fearing they could be prosecuted had sought legal advice on whether they could turn off life support to a pregnant woman who was clinically dead and whose foetus stood little or no chance of survival. The court gave the go-ahead to turn off life support and the woman was buried this Monday.

Speaking on the case last week, Tanaiste Joan Burton called for the repeal of the eighth amendment. And her Labour in Limerick colleague agrees.

“I do believe we will have to go back to the Eighth Amendment. I campaigned against it back in 1983 so I have always felt - in terms of it being in the constitution - that it was going to present difficulties in difficult cases,” said Minister O’Sullivan.

“What I have also said is that the commitment we made in the current government - and got agreement on - was that we would address the issues in the X case. We have done that,” she said in relation to the passage of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act.

“I think every party now should, in advance of the next general election, state clearly what its position is in relation to issues that have arisen in the recent case.”

But there was “no agreement” with Fine Gael to reopen a wider abortion debate through another constitutional referendum, she added.

Senior Fine Gael figures claim the people have no desire for another divisive campaign. But Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said earlier this month that the Eighth Amendment was “too restrictive”.

And while Minister Varadkar described himself as pro-life and opposed to abortion “on request”, he did speak in the Dail of those hard cases where the constitutional ban was too restrictive and imposed unnecessary hardships on mothers and families.

Minister O’Sullivan said of the Eighth Amendment that “if Fine Gael are willing to revisit it, I’m sure Labour will be very happy to revisit it as well”.

“But we realise that we only got agreement on what we got agrement on - which has been implemented. Certainly, I think the Irish people are beginning to question whether it serves us well in these kinds of difficult cases where families are brought through very tough situations. My own personal view is that we will have to revisit it,” she said.