Government will not finalise wording before ‘unborn’ ruling, could delay referendum date

Government Ministers believe they must await a Supreme Court ruling on the rights of the unborn before finalising the wording of the proposed abortion referendum, according to a report in The Irish Times. This could delay the Government’s plans to hold the referendum in late May or early June, long before the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland in August.

“This is the first time in the history of the State that the Supreme Court will rule on the meaning of unborn,” a source familiar with the Government’s legal advice on the matter said. “The wording is known. But the worst thing we could do is publish it and then have to change it because of the judgment.”

The Supreme Court hearing is listed for February 22nd and is expected to take two days, legal sources say. A judgment is expected in the following weeks, but the Government have already said they hope to introduce the referendum bill to the Dáil on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Any delay could scupper plans to stage the referendum on the preferred dates of May 25th or June 8th. The Government are in a rush to hold the referendum before students start leaving the country for the summer. Leo Varadkar previously said the referendum could also be held in November, when all students would be back in the country, but many politicians want the referendum over and done with before Pope Francis visits the country in August.