The Government Chief Whip has confirmed the Cabinet has formally agreed to draft a bill that would allow a referendum on the Eighth Amendment to take place.

The Amendment of the Constitution (Repeal the Eighth) Bill is one of 49 priority pieces of legislation for the Government over the next six months.

However, the list of legislation does not include a bill that would regulate abortion here if the referendum was passed.

It is the Government's intention though to publish the outline of this legislation before any referendum.

Chief Whip Joe McHugh said this was a technical piece of work and would take time to complete.

Mr McHugh said he would not reveal his views on the Eighth Amendment until he sees the legislation that would replace it.

The Government will also publish legislation to allow for two more referendums to possibly take place in the autumn.

They include one to remove the crime of blasphemy in the Constitution.

The other would ask people to remove the article in the Constitution that contains a reference to women's role in the home.

Time has been set aside in the Dáil tomorrow and on Thursday to allow TDs to discuss the Oireachtas all-party committee's recommendation to allow unrestricted terminations up to 12 weeks.


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The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that he does not want to put the issue on the "long finger" and is "very committed" to a referendum in May.

However, Leo Varadkar said the Government is waiting for advice from the attorney general on whether there needs to be an enabling provision should the Eighth Amendment be repealed to clarify that legislation is the sole prerogative of the Oireachtas.

Mr Varadkar said there would a "strange situation" if the Eighth Amendment was repealed and subsequent legislation is found to be unconstitutional due to other rights to life in the constitution.

He said the Citizens' Assembly may have been correct in its assertion that enabling legislation is needed.

He also said the Government would publish the heads of any draft legislation, should the referendum pass.