Kenny promises forum on abortion restrictions if re-elected
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised a citizens' forum on abortion restrictions if his government is re-elected.
The assembly would be established within six months with a remit to consider the future of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution, which outlaws the procedure unless there is a clear threat to the mother's life.
An Oireachtas committee would then consider the matter.
Mr Kenny said: "I want a sensitive and rational discussion about this. We would set up properly constructed citizens' assembly and let it reflect all of these features and move it through to the political system afterwards."
The amendment equates the life of the foetus to the life of the mother and criminalises abortion in Ireland. A prison sentence of up to 14 years could be imposed for an illegal abortion.
A coalition of pro-choice groups is calling for a referendum to repeal the clause and thousands of people have signed a petition by human rights group Amnesty International.
Campaigners have claimed more than 150,000 women and girls have travelled out of Ireland for abortions since 1983 and 12 more make similar journeys every day to the UK.
Mr Kenny said: " This is an issue that has divided Irish society for a very many years, it is one that requires rational, sensitive and respectful discussions and that's what I intend to have in this regard, that is if the party is returned to government.
"Within six months I would set up what I might term a citizen's assembly, give it a remit to look at the question of the eighth amendment. I hear many of the distressing stories."
A report by Amnesty has claimed pregnant women risk putting their health and lives in danger if they remain in Ireland.