There have been calls in the Seanad for legislation arising from yesterday's abortion ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

Independent Senator Joe O'Toole said it was a great pity that the Government had been 'too cowardly' to deal with the outstanding issues.

He criticised what he called the outrageous response from the Catholic Church, which he said was galvanised into action at the first mention of the case.

Senator O'Toole said it was an issue of protecting pregnant women whose lives are in danger and deserved a compassionate response.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik welcomed the ruling, which she said forced us to confront an issue that the legislature had failed to address.

She said there was no public appetite for a referendum, and it was now time for the Government to legislate to give effect to what is in our Constitution.

Fine Gael Senator Frances Fitzgerald said the judgment required careful consideration and required a dignified response.

Fianna Fáil’s John Hanafin called for another referendum. He said the Irish people still wanted pro life legislation.

Independent Senator Fergal Quinn said he believed there would be another referendum.

He said the warnings by the No side in the Lisbon Treaty referendum that Europe would be imposing on us had not come to pass, as was evidenced by yesterday's ruling.

Mr Quinn said the ruling left it very much in our hands to respond.

Seantor Quinn also called for careful use of words during the debate and castigated Senator Joe O'Toole for what he called his 'intemperate' words in relation to a member of the Catholic Church.

No obligation for legislation - Cardinal

Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady has said the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion here.

The Government said it would examine the ruling and consider what steps would be required to implement it.

But the lawyer who took the woman's case says the State has already accepted that legislative guidelines are necessary in light of the judgment.

It is 18 years since the Supreme Court ruled in the ‘X Case’ that abortion was lawful here if there was a real and substantial risk to a mother's life as a result of her pregnancy.

Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the State had failed to implement properly that constitutional right.

In a statement, Cardinal Brady reiterated Catholic Church teaching that neither the unborn child nor the mother may be deliberately killed.

He said the ruling left future policy here on protecting the lives of the unborn in the hands of the people and did not oblige the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.

However, on last night's Prime Time programme, Miss C's lawyer, Julie Kaye, said the Irish State had conceded yesterday that it was going to legislate at a minimum to implement the 'X Case' ruling.

Ms Kaye said putting the decision in the hands of the people in a referendum was an unnecessary delaying tactic.

She praised the European Court for leaving the door open to women to come to it directly to get justice on the issue.