SIMON COVENEY has described Friday’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment as ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to make a necessary change’.
The Tánaiste canvassed in Cork city with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and a number of other elected representatives yesterday. He believes there are many voters still undecided and said conversations in the coming days will be crucial.
“This is a difficult issue for a lot of people,” he told the Evening Echo.
“From speaking to a lot of people I think the majority of people recognise there is a need for change and want to see it but they also want some reassurance in terms of what that change will mean. They don’t want it to go too far.
“I think the conversations we have when canvassing are very important in that regard. I’m hopeful that a ‘yes’ vote will be carried but we need to work on reassuring the undecideds right up until the end.”
Some Cork TDs who are in favour of a ‘no’ vote have said they do not think it appropriate for them to canvas but Mr Coveney said it is his responsibility to explain the proposed changes.
“I am the Tánaiste in a government that is asking people to vote ‘yes’ so I think I have an obligation to explain why,” he said.
“I don’t put any pressure on other public representatives, everybody has got to make their own mind up.
“That is why I am out explaining what we are hoping to do if people give us permission, to take a more compassionate approach toward protecting and supporting women that are in very vulnerable situations, rather than simply sending them to Britain by the thousands every year.”
Under the proposed legislation in the event of a yes vote, abortion would be available without restriction for the first 12 weeks, following a consultation and a three-day waiting period. After 12 weeks, termination would be available in limited circumstances.
While out canvassing, he unexpectedly bumped into follow Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin.
“I hope on one level it is a positive thing that the leader of Fianna Fáil and the deputy leader of Fine Gael were standing next to each other in Cork, trying to reassure people,” he said.
“I think Micheál and I probably come from a similar place on this issue and so hopefully that can provide reassurance to people who still are not sure how they are going to vote.”
In the event of a yes vote, Mr Coveney said legislation will proceed through the Dáil in the normal way.
“In order to get legislation passed we will need the cooperation and support of opposition parties but I think we can get that,” he said.