Date for Ireland's controversial abortion referendum confirmed
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Date for Ireland's controversial abortion referendum confirmed

THE Irish Government has officially confirmed when the Republic of Ireland's referendum on abortion will take place.

Following his election this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised that a referendum on Ireland's controversial Eighth Amendment to the Constitution would be held in 2018.

A date of either May or June has now been announced by the Irish Government.

The Eighth Amendment strictly prohibits abortion in nearly all circumstances and has prompted more than 160,000 Irish women to travel to British clinics since the early 1980s.

As in Northern Ireland, abortions are only permitted in Ireland when the mother's life is at risk, not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities.

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Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, recently assured health workers who refer women to abortion services in Britain that they will not face the threat of prosecution.

Mr McGrory's comments followed confirmation from the British Government in June that women from the North are entitled to free terminations in England on the NHS, having previously been forced to pay.

Ireland's referendum is likely to be a contentious one, with a recent Ipsos MRBI poll suggesting that just 28 per cent of Irish people would support women having access to abortions in all circumstances.

Despite this, the same poll found that almost two-thirds of Irish people are not happy with the Eighth Amendment in its current form, with the sticking point regarding whether it should be entirely repealed or merely replaced.