The Minister for Health has said he is "fully committed" to introducing legislation on safe access zones around healthcare facilities providing abortion services.

In a statement, Stephen Donnelly said it was "originally intended to provide for safe access to termination of pregnancy services in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018."

Speaking in 2018, then minister for health Simon Harris said the government was considering exclusion zones to ensure patients can access maternity hospitals without being harassed.

Last year, the Abortion Rights Campaign accused the Government of failing to deliver or introduce legislation on safe access zones, which it has promised on countless occasions.

Mr Donnelly has claimed that "a number of legal issues were identified which necessitated further consideration" of the plans to introduce safe access zones.

Mr Donnelly said that officials in the Department of Health are working to ensure safe access around medical facilities.

"I have also been engaging with a range of stakeholders and civil society groups in relation to the review of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act which is being finalised with a view to it starting in the coming weeks," he added.

A Green Party spokesperson has said the coalition member "welcomes the clarification from the Minister for Health that he is fully committed to the introduction of legislation on 'safe access' zones around our healthcare facilities"

It follows a report in the Irish Examiner that this measure had been "shelved".

The Green Party statement added that the commitment was negotiated as part of the programme for government and said they will work with Minister Donnelly to ensure the provision of safe services for all women.

Earlier Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said she would like to reiterate her party's "commitment to the development of safe access zones for abortion services."

Ms Hourigan said "the inclusion of safe access zones was one of the most important commitments in the Programme for Government and one that the Green Party fought hard for. "

"Access to abortion services and the right to do so in an equitable and safe way is something the people of Ireland campaigned long and hard for and the Green Party is determined to see this aspect of the coalition’s commitments fulfilled," she said.

Ms Hourigan said it is crucial for Minister Donnelly "to set out a clear timeline for the completion of that legislation."

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan has welcomed the comments from Minister Donnelly that he is fully committed to introducing legislation.

"We need to see the legislation as soon as possible," Mr Quinlivan said, adding that further delays are "not acceptable".

Labour Party Senator Annie Hoey has said the Minister for Health is "out of touch with reality" if he thinks the current legislation is working well.

"It is deeply worrying to read that the Government is rowing back on the firm commitment to provide access to safe abortion services in this country," Senator Hoey said.

"Since the passage of the new abortion law in 2019, many of us in opposition have been asking the Minister for Health to take action to protect pregnant people, their partners and staff from intimidation as they enter GP surgeries and hospitals.

"Exclusion Zones restricting gatherings designed to intimidate and obstruct access to abortion services are already in effect in other countries, including parts of Canada, Australia, and the US," she said.

"Protests outside hospitals and clinics are intimidating for all those seeking to access medical services, for any visitors and for staff seeking access to work.

"These protests may have the effect of obstructing access to services for pregnant people, many of whom may be in crisis situations," Senator Hoey added.