The Citizens Assembly will begin its deliberations on the country’s abortion laws on October 15, Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed at a briefing this morning for the country’s political press.
He confirmed the Assembly will hold its first meeting under the chairmanship of Justice Mary Laffoy and the abortion issue will be the first item to be discussed.
He said a report from the Commission will then be debated within the Oireachtas before any decision on a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment, which gives equal status to the right to life of the mother and her unborn child.
Pro-choice advocates have criticised the delay in putting the country’s abortion laws up for discussion while thousands of Irish women travel every year to the UK to have abortions.
A polling company will select the 99 voters who will make up the citizens’ assembly with another 99 “shadow” members also selected to stand in if any of the original selection have to drop out.
The Taoiseach said that local TD, and Childrens Minister, Katherine Zappone was told to go back and further develop plans to advance supports for childcare.
Mr Kenny also said that the October 11 Budget will be “Brexit-proofed” and it was his impression that British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger the exit process sometime in January or February 2017.
“It is strictly a matter for the Prime Minister but it is my impression from discussions is that it will happen sometime toward the end of January or early February,” he said.
He said the Government is focusing now on its preparations for the Budget 2017, which will be held on Tuesday, October 11.
He said the Budget will contain about €1bn in extra spending including provision for 650 extra teachers and 800 more gardaí, but these are largely to deal with the increasing population.
He said he expected the supply and confidence agreement with Fianna Fáil to be honoured.
The Taoiseach said Fianna Fáil have agreed to facilitate the minority Government, and said that discussions will take place between the Government and Fianna Fáil.
Mr Kenny was critical of Fianna Fáil’s u-turn on water charges, saying it was “a reversal to old school populism”.
“We in Fine Gael are totally united on the issue of water charges. Fianna Fáil have no idea how they could pay for it,” he said.
The Taoiseach said he expected the Commission on water to report by November.
The Housing Minister is to launch a plan tomorrow to end the use of hotels as a means of emergency accommodation.
Simon Harris will announce details on mental health in homelessness and Katherine Zappone will discuss the impact of homelessness on children.
In relation to Nama, Mr Kenny said the sale of assets by Nama should not be suspended.
He said the Government fully accepted the report from the Comptroller and Auditor General but that he had confidence in Nama.
“There is a difference of opinion here, the Government decided to set up a commission of investigation. But it has to work,” he said.