The Tánaiste has said he does not believe that maintaining the status quo and the Eighth Amendment is the right thing to do.

However, Simon Coveney says he does not believe that there should be no protection in law for the unborn child.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Coveney said the Government is united in its approach to repealing the amendment, but there are differing views on the legislation that should replace it, which is a good thing.

Mr Coveney said the State's number one priority must be to protect women in pregnancy.

Despite this, he added that he also believes the State needs to protect the unborn child and he does not support unrestricted access to terminations during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Coveney said he supported recommendations by the all-party Oireachtas committee that terminations, post 12 weeks, should be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and cases of rape and incest.

Referring to rape cases, he said that he believed one doctor should be able to sanction an abortion after a consultation with the woman.

He said people are trying to polarise the debate but in his view, the majority of people in Ireland recognise the need for constitutional and legislative change, and he believes he represented the middle ground that many people favour.

Mr Coveney said his views have changed and moved over the last number of months and, as a politician, he cannot stand over sending vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy overseas.

The only way to do this, he said, was to change the constitution and he wanted to be part of that process.

He said that he hopes a balanced legislation can be reached that he will be able to support.

Mr Coveney said any adult or child with Down syndrome should not be abused as part of the debate.