Former taoiseach John Bruton has defended the current constitutional position on abortion, saying it offered very good protection to the unborn.

He said that Irish people have a choice to make as to whether human rights extend to the unborn or just to those who are born.

He said it was his view that the unborn should have human rights.

Mr Bruton was speaking at the Daniel O'Connell Summer School in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry.

He said Daniel O'Connell was the greatest ever Irish humanitarian who protected the defenceless.

Mr Bruton's comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said earlier this week that there is likely to be a referendum on abortion in the first half of next year.

Mr Bruton also called for the lengthening of the Brexit negotiations to five or six years.

He said this could be done by amending European treaties and it would mean that the UK would still be part of the EU at the time of the next European elections.

This would allow people there to perhaps look again at the wisdom of Brexit, he said.

He also criticised Sinn Féin, saying the party had betrayed O'Connell's legacy by not taking their seats in Westminster at a time when vital legislation affecting Ireland is being decided there.

Responding to Mr Bruton's comments, Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said the former taoiseach only represents a minority view.

He said that repealing the Eighth Amendment is the burning social issue of this time.

The Dublin South West TD said the proposal which will be put before the people in a referendum should follow the Citizens' Assembly recommendations at a minimum.