Varadkar denies he is under extra pressure to reveal stance on Eighth Amendment

Update 4.02pm: The Taoiseach has denied that Micheál Martin's announcement that he supported a repeal of the Eighth Amendment has put more pressure on him to clarify his own position on abortion.

Speaking in Limerick earlier today, the Taoiseach also took questions on the Kerry Babies Scandal.

Q&A compiled by David Raleigh

  • Michael Martin has now made his position on the [abortion] referendum clear. Is it now not time you did the same?
  • "I've always said I believe this is a very personal and private issue, and that I want there to be a respectful debate over the next number of months.

    "I've said before that I believe our laws are too restrictive and need to be reformed and need to be liberalised, and of course, that requires a change to the Constitution.

    "But, part of leadership is [to listen], and I want to listen to public opinion; the citizens assembly; my own party members; and also listen to the debate in the Dáil and Seanad.

    "I know I've a particular responsibility as Taoiseach to make sure that the wording - the actual question that we put to the people - is the right one; that it's sound; and that it isn't going to be open to interpretation or challenge because it is a question that, I as Taoiseach and as government will put to the people, so I want to actually know what that question is, before asking people to say yes or no to it."

  • Does it put more pressure on you - Micheál Martin's utterances/stance on it - does it make it easier for your or does it put more pressure on you to now make your own views known?
  • LEO: "No, I don't believe so. We are going to have a referendum this summer, all things going to plan. People will know the wording in the next couple of weeks, so they will know the opinion of all the leaders of the political parties, long before the referendum.

    "But I actually don't think the public are going to decide how they feel about this issue, based on what politicians think. This is a personal, private, issue and I think we need to be respectful of people's opinions."

  • How soon do you think you might have that wording and that you then will let the public know how you view it?
  • "I don't know for sure, I'm waiting obviously for the advice from the Attorney General on this, I think it's important to have that advice. That wasn't done back in 1983, so I think it's important that I have the advice of the Attorney General before we put a specific question to Cabinet.

    "But, I want to have this referendum in the summer and I want the question put to the people so they can decide whether we are going to change our constitution or not. So, I'd expect us to be able to do that in a matter of weeks."

  • Regarding the Kerry Babies scandal, do you think there should be compensation paid out?
  • "That's something obviously that we want to discus with Joanne Hayes’ solicitor. Minister Flanagan has made contact with Mrs Hayes’ solicitor to discuss her wishes.

    "I know, among her wishes, are that, her privacy be respected, so I'm very keen to do that, and we'll discuss anything else with her through her representatives."

  • Do you think compensation should be paid to the Hayes family?

    "I don't want to talk to somebody, who has been badly treated by the State, through the media. She has asked for privacy, and she has asked that we talk to her through her representatives and we are going to do that, and ascertain what her wishes are first.

    "I don't know if she is seeking compensation, for example, so that's obviously something we are going to have to need to ascertain."

  • Do you think there should be an inquiry into how gardaí handled the matter and how the family made disclosures to the gardaí admitting their role in a murder they were never involed in?
  • "There was a tribunal of inquiry on the matter already a number of years ago…into how the gardai handled that investigation. The question is should be a further one...that is something I'd like to know Joanne Hayes and her family feel about it first.

    "They are the ones who were badly treated; they're the ones who lost their privacy; whose lives were exposed to public scrutiny…and it may be the case they don't want that to happen again, or maybe they do."

    "That is why Minister Flanagan has contacted her solicitor, really to ascertain what her wishes are, and that's the most important thing in my view."

  • Should a new inquiry go beyond what the family would want, in terms of how the gardaí conducted themselves?
  • "I can't give you a further answer to what I've given you."

Earlier: Josepha Madigan: Taoiseach wants to listen to party before revealing view on Eighth Amendment

Ministers have been defending the Taoiseach for not revealing his views on abortion.

Leo Varadkar has come under pressure to outline his stance after Micheál Martin supported repealing the Eighth Amendment yesterday.

The Taoiseach is now the only party leader not to put his opinion on the record.

Josepha Madigan, appointed Minister for Culture in November 2017, said he has "always been consistent".

"I don't know what the Taoiseach's decision is going to be in relation to repealing the Eighth. However, he has always been consistent in the sense that he said he wants to listen to the party," she said.

"We had a five-six hour discussion last Monday, there are debates continuing in the Dáil next week, and I think he felt he wanted to take soundings from everybody and I think that's the right approach in my view."

- Digital Desk

 

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