Updated: 16/06/17 : 07:13:14
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Abortion referendum scheduled for next year

Abortion rights campaigners are giving a cautious welcome to the new Taoiseach's plans for a referendum on the matter in 2018.

Leo Varadkar's announcement that Health Minister Simon Harris has been given special responsibility in the area has met with a cool response.

Speaking on the maintained position of Simon Harris as Minister for Health, Mr Varadkar said that Minister Harris would be tasked with "bringing forward legislation to allow for a referendum on the eighth amendment in 2018".

The Pro Life Campaign said it is disappointed the new Taoiseach has announced the move before the special Oireachtas committee gives its findings on the issue.

Linda Kavanagh from the Abortion Rights Campaign said they will reserve judgment until they see more details.

“It is very dependent on the wording of the referendum. We know that restrictions-based abortion will not work in Ireland so we need to make sure that, just as the Citizens Assembly recommended, we have broad access to abortion in Ireland.”

On Tuesday, The United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled for the second time that Ireland's abortion laws currently violate women's human rights.

The ruling came after an Irish woman, Siobhán Whelan, was denied access to abortion services in Ireland following a diagnosis, in 2010 of a fatal foetal impairment.

The Committee said that Ireland must provide Ms. Whelan with reparations for the harm she suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not continue to face similar violations.

Simon Harris said that the report was being reviewed by his department and a formal submission would be prepared. He also said it was his belief that the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities should be addressed by the Government.

Back in 2014, Mr Varadkar went as far to say that he was "pro life" and that while he wasn't in favour of 'abortion on demand', he thought current laws put lives of women at risk.

Speaking to the Dáil on the issue, during his time as Minister for Health, he said, "There are two lives involved in any pregnancy. For that reason, like most people in the country, I do not support abortion on request or on demand."

Perhaps the new Taoiseach is slowly edging his way towards the will of the people on this issue.

See also: Sligo Today 16/6/2017