Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he hopes the Oireachtas can pass the Referendum Bill before the Easter break in order for a vote to be held by the end of May.

TDs returned to Leinster House today - a day early from their St Patrick's Day break - to facilitate the debate on the bill to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

The bill includes the wording of the question to be put to the electorate.

Voters will be asked whether to retain or repeal the amendment. It will state that the Oireachtas should legislate in this area.

Mr Harris said the Dáil will sit until midnight tonight and 11pm tomorrow. He said TDs need to consider the bill in an efficient manner to allow the vote by the end of May.

Arriving at Government Buildings for this morning's Cabinet meeting, he said every TD has the right to scrutinise the legislation, but that has to be balanced by the right of the people of Ireland to have a say.

He added that passing the bill before the Easter break would give the Referendum Commission plenty of time to provide impartial information to the people.


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Labour leader Brendan Howlin said he believes the result of the referendum will be "decisive" for many years and there would not be re-run of the referendum within months as has happened in the past.

He said people are engaged and want to know what will flow from their decision and that it will last the test of time.

Mr Howlin said he is confident the Oireachtas will replace with Eighth Amendment with legislation that is representative and reflective of the view of the people of this country.

He also said he expected the Referendum Commission will ensure that information presented as fact during the campaign is fact and that information that is untrue will be revealed to be untrue.