The leader of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Richard Clarke, has said he would find it ethically unsustainable to have unrestricted access to abortion up to twelve weeks' gestation.

The Primate, whose Armagh diocese straddles the border, said he had huge concerns with the Government’s proposal for the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson has said that while he and Dr Clarke wanted the Government to look at altering the Eighth Amendment, he was anxious about the twelve week limit in the legislation promised by the Government if the referendum is passed.

Both men were speaking at the Church of Ireland’s General Synod in Armagh which is being attended by around 500 clerical and lay representatives from parishes throughout Ireland.

Over three days, the bishops will debate legislation and reports including proposals to develop a new liturgy in cases of miscarriages, stillbirth and neonatal death.

Five of the Church's ten bishops whose dioceses are partly or entirely in the Republic have already indicated their opposition to the referendum proposal.

Two however, Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory and Kenneth Kearon of Limerick and Killaoe, have supported it publicly.

A further three have yet to declare their views.