A referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland would not be held until 2018 at the earliest, after the Irish government reached a compromise on the issue on Tuesday.
A Bill proposed by the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit TDs – which seeks to hold a referendum to remove the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn – cannot yet progress to the second stage.
The Citizen’s Assembly is currently assessing the issue and asked for six months to complete its work.
The deal struck by Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance commits to another six months for the recommendations to be reviewed by an Oireachtas Committee.
And while this would mean that a referendum could realistically be held in early 2018, some TDs noted that the second half of the year would be a more likely scenario.
Ruth Coppinger, the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD, launched a scathing attack on the deal while at the Dáil plinth.
“This is a sell-out and betrayal by the Independent Ministers like Katherine Zappone, John Halligan and Shane Ross,” she said.
“Ministers, who said they are in favour of repeal, will line up and vote as part of the government against repealing the Eighth Amendment. They are putting their ministerial seats before the health and lives of women.
“This vote will guarantee that no referendum will take place during the life-time of this government.
“By the time the Citizen’s Assembly reports back, the Oireachtas Committee sits and then a Bill is passed through both houses, the earliest opportunity for a referendum will be late 2018 or early 2019, by that stage this government may not be in power.
“They have sent a clear message to women telling them they can continue to wait.”
Mr Ross, however, argued that the Alliance had secured a number of positives, particularly setting a time-frame for proceedings.
He said: “If you think achieving a six-month time-frame for both those institutions is nothing…It was 30 years ago that I opposed putting this into the Constitution.
“Now we are moving very fast in those terms. It is a very divisive issue. We are going to have to do something that is sensible and brings people along with us.”