To bring the government in line with the European Convention on Human Rights

The Irish government on Tuesday published the much-awaited report of an expert group it had set up to review the country’s controversial abortion law to bring it in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report sets out a series of recommendations but strongly supports legislation to provide for limited abortion. It calls for specific “regulatory” guidelines down to specifying particular centres where abortion can take place. Such a regime, it says, would meet the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement which criticised Ireland’s existing abortion law for a lack of clarity.

“The advantages of this option are that it fulfils the requirements of the judgment, it provides for appropriate checks and balances between the powers of the legislature and the executive, and would be amenable to changes that might arise out of clinical practice and scientific advances,” the report says.

Other options, suggested by the group, include non-statutory guidelines, statutory regulation and “legislation alone.”

Health Minister James Reilly, who presented the report to the Cabinet, said the government would take a decision within a month as to which was the best option. “And then we will seek to implement through legislation the decision of the government as quickly as possible,” he said.

He then hastened to clarify that his reference to “legislation” was a “slip of the tongue.” “I’m confirming that the government decision will be made on this before the end of December and implemented in the early New Year,” he said.

Kenny: no differences

Prime Minister Enda Kenny denied any differences in the government over the issue but said he said he would not be rushed into a decision as it required careful land calm consideration.

“We’re not going to leave this hanging on interminably. I’d like to deal with this as quickly and as comprehensively [as] it’s practical to do so. Don’t ask me for a specific date, but it’s not going to be left hanging around,” he said.

The group, which was chaired by Justice Sean Ryan and included medical, legal and civil service representatives, was set up before the controversy over Savita Halappanavar’s death after being denied abortion despite apparent risk to her life. But her case is thought to have prompted it to expedite its work.

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