Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said an abortion referendum should not take place in the run up to the next general election.

Speaking in the Dáil during this afternoon's topical issues debate, Mr Varadkar said the problem with the debate about abortion in Ireland was that it has been dominated by the extremes.

He said the debate has been “framed in the Catholic versus anti-Catholic view of things rather than what's right and what's wrong”.

Mr Varadkar said the debate was “framed in terms of Christian ideology versus social ideology or being pro-choice or anti-choice, as if you could ever reduce it to that, because human experience is not black and white and medicine is not black and white either.

“There is never going to be perfect legislation that removes all tragedies related to pregnancy.”

Mr Varadkar said that “in relation to the eigth amendment [of the Constitution], again, people calling for the repeal of that need to consider what that means.

“Just repealing the eighth amendment means deleting from the constitution any protection from the life of the mother and the unborn and replacing it with nothing, so people need to consider whether that is what they want, whether they want to replace it with a different amendment.

“And even if you do change the constitution it doesn't change the legislation. The law actually doesn't change at all and you would need to legislate subsequently.”

Mr Varadkar said it would be a “really bad idea” to hold a referendum in 2015, in the run up to a general election.

"I think that it would be a really bad idea in 2015, in the run in to a general election for us to have that kind of debate happening in that medium because we have been there before,” he said.

“That's exactly what happened in 1983. In the run-up to a general election people were put in a position where they made commitments in the run-in to a general election that maybe they shouldn't have, so let's not repeat the mistake of 1983 and have all that again in 2015.

“There is a time and a place for a considered non-ideological debate and conversation about this matter in this country and it shouldn't be done on foot of a tragedy or a very hard case and it shouldn't be done in the run-in to a general election."