Ireland to hold referendum on abortion in 2018

The referendum will take place next year.
The referendum will take place next year.

Ireland will hold a referendum on abortion next year, it has been announced.

The decision to hold the referendum was announced by the Irish government on Tuesday afternoon.

The referendum will take place in "May or June 2018" which is a few weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Ireland.

Abortion laws in Ireland are amongst the most conservative in Europe.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee described Ireland's abortion laws as "cruel, inhuman and degrading".

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who described the current abortion laws as "too restrictive", said having the referendum next year gave sides on both side of the argument a chance to shape their points of view.

"Any amendment to our constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate.

"Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate," said Mr. Varadkar.