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Conscience Magazine

Irish Referendum on 8th Amendment Scheduled for Just Weeks Before Papal Visit

November 16, 2017

Leo Varadkar, head of the Irish government, announced that the referendum on whether to repeal the country’s near-total abortion ban will take place during May or June of 2018. This time frame puts the referendum just weeks before Pope Francis’s scheduled visit to Ireland in August of next year. Last year, the former Irish government confirmed that Pope Francis would visit Ireland during the 2018 World Meeting of Families, marking the first papal visit to the country since 1979. Varadkar has stated that he sees no potential conflict in the scheduling, stressing that the papal visit occurs during a legislative recess, but not yet addressing concerns about the psychological impact the impending visit could have on the referendum vote. Ailbhe Smyth, spokeswoman and convener for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, has repeated the Coalition’s preference that the “referendum should be held as soon as possible”; in contrast, Varadkar believes the referendum demands “careful consideration” and “ample time to consider the issues.” Varadkar has described Ireland’s abortion ban as “too restrictive.” Meanwhile, the Citizens’ Assembly put together to deliberate the issue last year returned a generally prochoice decision—contributing to the call for this referendum—and a poll for the Irish Times reported 75 percent of the Irish people favor repealing the ban.