The Oireachtas Health Committee has tonight agreed the format for three days of hearings on the Government's plans to bring legal certainty to the abortion issue.

Dozens of witnesses are set to appear before the committee to give their views on the Government’s promise to legislate for abortion when a mother's life is in danger.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children called for a calm and dignified debate on the issue.

The hearings are the first steps in the Government's plans to draw up laws to provide for and regulate abortion in Ireland.

The Government decided last month to proceed with "legislation with regulations" following the expert group report on abortion.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, committee chairman Jerry Buttimer said it is vital that all sides in the debate have their say.

"I think that it's very important that we have this debate now and that it's made in a very calm, respectful and dignified manner where all sides can have their voices heard," he said.

"It is a very important issue, it's a very complex one.

"It's one that has divergent viewpoints, but what we must do here is: we must consult, we must listen and then we must implement and that is what Government will do."