I will not be backing 'unrestricted abortion at any time' - Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said he does not believe Ireland should sanction unrestricted access to abortion "at any point in time".
Outlining his views on the upcoming referendum, he confirmed that he supports repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but said: "I don't believe we should have no protection in law for an unborn child."
The Cork TD said he believes he speaks for the "majority of people in Ireland" who recognise the need for constitutional change "but are also concerned that the State needs to provide protection to the unborn".
"I reflect that middle ground position where many people are today," he said.
The Government has proposed to hold a referendum in late May, with Health Minister Simon Harris currently working on legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.
This move is based on the recommendations of an all-party Oireachtas Committee, which said it would be too difficult to legislate for abortion in specific cases such as rape and incest.
However, Mr Coveney told RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke: "I don't accept that, actually. Some of the experts said it would be difficult, but not impossible."
He said the situation proposed to apply after 12 weeks where abortions will be permitted in cases of risk to the mother's health and fatal foetal abnormalities could apply in the first trimester also.
Referring to rape cases, he said: "I believe that one doctor should in conversation with a victim be able to sanction an abortion in those circumstances.
"Where I have a difficulty is that I don't believe there should be unrestricted access to abortion at any point in time."
He said it was a "good thing" that there are differing views within the Government, saying.
"This is a sensitive but a very important thing that the Government needs to get right," he said.
Mr Harris insisted yesterday that women who have an abortion on the grounds their child will be born with Down Syndrome are "not doing it lightly".
He was speaking as figures showed 83 women travelled to the UK over two years to terminate their pregnancies after 24 weeks gestation following a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.
Mr Harris also said he accepts his "colleague and friend" Mr Coveney supports repeal of the Eighth Amendment but cannot back 12 weeks' unrestricted access to abortion.
"You know what? That's 0K. That's his decision," he said.
Earlier this week, Mr Harris said it was "offensive to suggest women in Ireland are seeking abortions on the grounds their babies will be born with disabilities like Down Syndrome".
Asked yesterday if he was shocked at the figure of 83 such abortions, he said: "Not at all."