Fourth Meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution

The Citizens' Assembly met again on 4-5 March 2017 for its fourth meeting to consider the Eighth Amendment.

Agenda for the fourth meeting of the Citizens' Assembly on the Eighth Amendment

Saturday's Legal Speakers

The Chair's opening speech to the Assembly on the Saturday morning available to read here.

The Assembly received three legal presentations at the Saturday morning session.

Session 1: The role of Article 40.3.3° in medical and parental decision-making

Emily Egan is a practicing barrister who has been practicing for over 20 years. Emily studied law in Trinity College Dublin, graduated in 1991 and obtained a Post Graduate Degree (LLB) at Oxford University. She was called to the Bar in 1994 and was appointed Senior Counsel by the Government in 2010. Emily practices mainly in the areas of healthcare and medical law, administrative, constitutional and regulatory law. Emily advises a wide range of statutory bodies. Emily also acts as Legal Assessor to the Medical Council, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (the Pharmacy Regulator) and the Dental Council of Ireland in Fitness to Practice enquiries into complaints of professional misconduct. Emily has been a CEDR Accredited Mediator since 2008. She acts as both Mediator and Arbitrator in the settlement of a broad range of disputes.

Ms Egan's delivery of her paper on "The Role of Article 40.3.3° in Medical and Parental Decision-Making" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation.

During the Q&A Session following Ms. Egan's presentation some confusion arose in relation to the role of the 8th Amendment around consent during labour. A transcript of that section of the Q&A is provided here. The Chair of the Assembly, Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy wishes to clarify that Ms. Egan did not intend to suggest that no uncertainty could arise from the 8th Amendment or that the 8th Amendment was incapable of having any effect upon medical practice in such situations. Nor did she intend to suggest that there could never be any scope for difficulties to arise in practice in the light of the uncertainty surrounding the issue of when there is a risk or, in the words of the National Consent Policy, “a serious risk” to the life of the foetus.

Ms Egan's presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here

Session 2: The Constitutional Rights of the Unborn Within and Beyond the Eighth Amendment

John O'Dowd has lectured in the Faculty (now the School) of Law at UCD since 1991, where he has taught contract law, constitutional law, administrative law, media law and the law of the European Convention on Human Rights. He is the co-editor (with Professor Giuseppe Franco Ferrari) of 75 Years of the Constitution of Ireland: An Irish-Italian Dialogue (Clarus Press, 2014) and the author of several book chapters and journal articles on constitutional law and human rights. He is a member of the European Group of Public Law. A frequent commentator on issues of constitutional law in the Irish media, he has also presented his research to parliamentary committees in Ireland and the EU on several occasions.

Mr O'Dowd's delivery of his paper on "The Constitutional Rights of the Unborn Within and Beyond the Eighth Amendment" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. Mr O'Dowd's presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here.

Session 3: Legal Consequences of Retention, Repeal, or Amendment of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution

Brian Murray is  a Senior Counsel.

Mr Murray's delivery of his paper on "Legal Consequences of Retention, Repeal, or Amendment of Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution" was accompanied by a slideshow presentation. Mr Murray's presentation to the Assembly can be watched back here

A copy of the transcript from the Q&A session following Mr Murray's presentation is available here.

Saturday Afternoon - First Hand Experiences

During feedback sessions at previous meetings the members requested to hear from women who were directly affected by the Eighth Amendment.

Six women were approached by the secretariat to record their personal testimony of their experiences. The audio of their interviews was played to the members. Detailed information about how the women were selected and how their interviews were carried out is available to read here.

Justice Laffoy's introductory remarks for the session can be read here. Dr Mary Ryan, who interviewed the women, also addressed the members. Dr Ryan's comments can be read here.

During the session, the Assembly members' attention was drawn to the large number of submissions containing personal testimony which are all available to read on our submissions received page.

The first hand experiences can be listened back to at the following links:

Sunday - Advocacy Groups and Representative Organisations

17 advocacy groups and representative organisations presented to the Assembly on Sunday. An information note was provided to the groups selected to present and each group was asked to provide a brief biography of their organisation.

Justice Laffoy's opening remarks before the day's proceedings commenced are available to read here

The sessions were as follows:

Session One (9.05am)

    • Doctors for Life Ireland

Doctors for Life Ireland were represented by Dr Orla Halpenny. Dr. Halpenny graduated from University College Galway and is a General Practitioner in Dublin. She is a Member of the Irish College of General Practitioners (MICGP). She also has a Diploma in Medicine for the Elderly from RCSI and a Master's in Medical Science from UCD. She has been involved in Doctors for Life since 2013.

Doctor's for Life Ireland's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Doctors for Choice

Doctors for Choice were represented by Veronica O’Keane. She is a professor in Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), and a consultant psychiatrist in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin.

She led a national Perinatal Psychiatry service in the Bethlem & Maudsley Hospital Trust, London from 2002-2007. She has written a book on perinatal depression and has over 100 peer reviewed publication in the field of depression, hormones and psychiatric dosorders and perinatal psychiatry.

She runs a research programme REDEEM (Research in Depression, Endocrinology, Epigenetics and neuroiMaging) in the Trinity College of Neurosciences. The core theme of this programme is how developmental adversity modifies brain and stress systems.

Doctors for Choice's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

Session one is available to watch back here

Session Two (9.55am)

    • Union of Students in Ireland

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) was represented by Annie Hoey. Annie is the President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). She previously served two years as Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship. USI represents over 354,000 students across the island of Ireland, with members in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Annie coordinates the ‘Students for Choice’ campaign across Irish campuses, building broad consensus in favour of repealing the eighth amendment, and disseminating information to students on their reproductive health.

Annie earned her undergraduate bachelor's degree from University College Cork, and a masters degree in comparative literature. She also holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Women’s Studies.

USI's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Youth Defence

Youth Defence was represented by Rebecca Kiessling. Rebecca Kiessling is a Family Law attorney, adoptee, and mother of 5. Rebecca was adopted nearly from birth, and at age 18 learned that she was conceived out of a brutal rape at knifepoint by a serial rapist. Rebecca has now devoted herself to fighting for the rights of the innocent unborn and raising her 5 children to know their own value, identity, and purpose. Rebecca and her husband currently have two adopted sons and three biological daughters.

Youth Defence's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • National Women's Council of Ireland

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) will be represented by their Director, Orla O’Connor. Orla holds an MA in European Social Policy, and after starting out in local community based projects, has worked in senior management in non-governmental organisations for over 25 years. Orla represents NWCI in a wide range of national and international fora. She is Chair of the Irish NGO Observatory on Violence Against Women, and represents NWCI on the Monitoring Committee of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. Orla is a feminist, and an expert in the policies needed to progress women’s equality in Ireland. She is an accomplished public speaker, with a strong analysis of public policy. Orla has led numerous high level, successful campaigns on a wide range of issues on women’s rights, including social welfare reform, pension reform and for the introduction of quality and affordable childcare. Orla is passionate about ensuring access to women’s reproductive rights; about ensuring more women are in leadership positions; about ending violence against women; and increasing women’s economic equality.

NWCI's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation.

    • Women Hurt

Women Hurt will be represented by Dr Anthony Levatino. Dr. Levatino is a board-certified obstetrician-gynaecologist who received his medical degree from Albany Medical College in Albany, NY, USA in 1976 and completed his OB-GYN residency training at Albany Medical Centre in 1980. In his 36-year career to date, he has served as associate professor of OB-GYN at the Albany Medical College serving at different times as both medical student director and residency programme director. He has also dedicated many years to private practice and currently serves as Clinical Professor and Chair of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The paper Women Hurt prepared for their presentation to the Assembly is available to read here.

Session Two is available to watch back here

Session Three (11.25am)

    • Parents for Choice

Parents for Choice will be represented by Sinead Redmond. Sinéad is a 32 year old mother of 2 small daughters, aged 4 and 16 months. She first became involved in campaigning for access to abortion when she was pregnant with her first daughter, a chosen and wanted pregnancy. Experiencing pregnancy for herself  brought home the reality of her loss of bodily autonomy as a pregnant woman, even in a continued pregnancy, in a very concrete way she hadn't expected. Months later, still pregnant, Sinéad learned of the death of Savita Halappanavar. Like many pregnant women, mothers and parents around the country she was horrified and deeply upset, touched by the tragedy of the unnecessary death of a young woman in a stage of life like her own in a very personal way.

Sinéad is one of the founding members of Parents for Choice. Having been involved in other organisations seeking the repeal of the 8th amendment (ARC, and in particular AIMS Ireland for whom she continues to act as secretary), Sinéad and others saw the need for a campaigning organisation specifically focused on the need for the repeal of the 8th from the perspective of parents; i.e. those most affected by it. Having experienced the limitations and restrictions the 8th amendment places upon her as a woman of reproductive age in Ireland, something which she like all other women of her age has had no opportunity to vote on, she does not want the same for her daughters.

Parents for Choice's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Every Life Counts

Every Life Counts will be represented by Tracy Harkin. Tracy is mother to Kathleen Rose, an amazing 10 year old who is living with Trisomy 13. She holds a BSSC from QUB and previously worked in the field of Community Development in Belfast. In her work with Every Life Counts she seeks to build awareness and support for parents with babies with life limiting conditions.

Every Life Counts paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Irish Family Planning Association

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) will be represented by Dr Catriona Henchion, MB BCh BAO, Dip Child Health, Dip Obstetrics; Family Planning Certificate, Contraceptive Tutor. Dr Henchion is an experienced healthcare professional who worked as a sessional General Practitioner for several years before joining the IFPA, where she took over as Medical Director in 2008.

Dr Henchion has extensive knowledge of women’s health needs in the reproductive health context. She specialises in sexual health and contraception and is a member of the Irish Association of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care Professionals and of the European Society of Contraception. In her role as Medical Director, Dr Henchion leads the IFPA medical services, including our post-abortion medical care service. As well as clinical work, she delivers the IFPA’s bi-yearly medical CPD training for health professionals, which is approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI).

The IFPA's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Family & Life

Family and Life will be represented by Patrick Carr. Patrick is a researcher with Family & Life and has been studying and writing about bioethical issues for the past fifteen years. He has represented Family & Life before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, and at the United Nations.

The paper prepared by Family & Life for their presentation to the Assembly is available to read here

Session Three is available to watch back here.

Clarification by the Chairperson following remarks from Family and Life

Transcript of clarification provided by the Chair at the opening of the Q&A from session 3:

"Before we go on to the questions and answers, I have to respond to some criticism in that last presentation. I'm referring to the presentation by Gilda Sedge who works for the Guttmacher Institute and the presentation by Dr. Patricia Lohr from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, both of whom we heard at the February weekend meeting. I just want to make it absolutely clear that both of these figures were invited to present in their personal professional capacity as experts in their respective fields. 

There was no question of us engaging with, I think the expression was used, the abortion industry. Their invitations were in response to specific requests from members to hear where Ireland's abortion regime sits amongst other developed nations.

As has been repeated I think this weekend again Gilda Sedge was the author of a report and research which was published in the Lancet, which had been published in the Lancet, very recently and that was what we wanted to hear from her. We wanted to hear the statistics and that is what she gave us.

In relation to Dr. Lohr, the members made it quite clear that they wanted to hear from a medic or medics in the United Kingdom about how the procedure is carried out in the United Kingdom and that is why Dr. Patricia Lohr was invited to speak, because she had experience of dealing with Irish women. And I want to make clear that we had signalled fairly on, I think is that far back as January that we were going this route. 

I think, and this is my own view, that failure to include this material would have represented a serious omission in the overall work programme. I just want to make that clear." 

Session Four (1.30pm)

    • Pro Life Campaign

The Pro Life Campaign will be represented by Cora Sherlock. Cora Shelock holds a Bachelor in Civil Law degree from UCD, a Master’s degree in Law from Queen’s University and is a qualified solicitor. In 2014, she was named as one of the BBC’s ‘100 Women of 2014.’ She has addressed a number of UN committees on rights to life issues and is a regular contributor to radio and TV debates. 

The Pro Life Campaign's paper prepared by for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Amnesty International

Amnesty International will be represented by the Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman. Colm is the founder and former Director of One in Four, the national non-governmental organisation that supports women and men who have experienced sexual violence. In this role Colm was instrumental in the establishment of the Ferns Inquiry, the first state investigation into clerical child sexual abuse. One in Four was also centrally involved in a number of other such inquiries, including the investigations into the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Diocese of Cloyne.

Prior to his role with One in Four Colm worked as a psychotherapist in his own practice in London. He has made a number of documentary films, including the BAFTA awarding winning “A Family Affair” (2000), “Suing the Pope” (2002) and “Sex Crimes and The Vatican”, which he presented for BBC Panorama in 2006. Colm has also served as a member of Seanad Éireann having been appointed as a Senator in May 2007. He is a regular media commentator, contributor and essayist, writing and speaking extensively on social justice and human rights. He is the author of a best-selling memoir, Beyond Belief (Hodder & Stoughton 2010).

Amnesty International's paper prepared by for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • The Iona Institute

The Iona Institute will be represented by Maria Steen. Maria is a qualified barrister and was in private practice until the birth of her children. Prior to this she worked with the leading architectural firm, Scott Tallon Walker, and holds a degree in Architecture from University College Dublin. More recently, Maria has also qualified as a primary school Montessori teacher. Maria has spoken on television and radio on a variety of topics, including the issue of abortion. She is married with four children. 

The paper prepared by The Iona Institute for their presentation to the Assembly is available to read here

    • Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment

The Coalition will be represented by Ailbhe Smyth. Ailbhe is a former academic and has been active in feminist and LGBT politics for many years. The founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Centre, she was head of Women’s Studies at UCD from 1990 until 2006 when she left the university to work with NGO and community organisations. Ailbhe has published extensively about feminism, politics and culture in Ireland and is a regular contributor to public and media discussions about women’s rights and social change. She has campaigned for women’s right to choose for over 35 years and chairs the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

The paper prepared by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth to the Assembly is available to read here

Session Four is available to watch back here

Session Five (2.50pm)

    • Irish Catholic Bishops Conference

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference will be represented by Kate Liffey. Kate is the National Director for Catechetics, and Coordinator of the National Faith Development Team, of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference.  Kate is a qualified second level teacher and previously worked in social justice outreach with the aid agency Trócaire.

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference's paper prepared for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • Atheist Ireland

Atheist Ireland will be represented by Ashling O’Brien. Ashling is the Regional Officer and Chair of the Dublin Regional Branch of Atheist Ireland. Ashling graduated from the Trinity Access Programme for Mature Students in 2004, holds an honours degree in Psychology from TCD and an MSc in Applied Psychology (Mental Health) from University of Ulster.

Atheist Ireland's paper prepared  for their presentation to the Assembly was accompanied by a slideshow presentation

    • The General Synod of the Church of Ireland

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland will be represented by Rt Rev Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory.

The paper prepared by the Church of Ireland for their presentation to the Assembly is available to read here

Session Five is available to watch back here

The Chair's closing remarks at the end of the weekend are available here


On the Saturday, the Members engaged in roundtable discussions, with the assistance of facilitators at each table. Further details on the facilitation process are available here

Each table was provided with the same conversations starters

During the course of the weekend the Members completed two individual reflective exercises. The first was completed on Saturday evening after listening to the first hand experiences. It can be viewed here.

The second was completed on Sunday afternoon. The purpose of the second individual exercise was to allow the Members to make comments and preliminary suggestions on what types of issues they think should be voted upon or included on a ballot paper for the final weekend. It can be viewed here. The Members also had opportunities at that final weekend to make additional comments and suggestions about the content of the ballot paper.


A list of Members at the fourth meeting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is available here