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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Vol. 969 No. 7

Referendum of 25 May: Statements

There will be eight slots of five minutes. The House decided to adjourn rather than conclude the statements today. There will be no necessity for the Minister to make a final contribution. The Taoiseach will speak first.

History was made on Friday. It was made by 1,429,981 people who came out with hope in their hearts to vote for compassion in our Constitution. As a country we said to Irish women, "We trust you and we respect your choices about your healthcare". More people voted on Friday to remove the eighth amendment than the combined number of people who voted on both sides in 1983. It was, therefore, a resounding act of democracy. Thirty-five years ago, the 1983 referendum was described on the front pages of the newspapers as having split our country into two nations - urban versus rural, Dublin, which voted against the amendment, against the rest of the country. Today we are not a divided country. We do not have red states and blue states. Men and women from all regions and all social classes, rural Ireland and urban Ireland and almost all age groups voted yes.

In this Oireachtas and beyond, there are women and men from all political parties and none who campaigned and led on this issue for many years. Some campaigned for decades and opposed the eighth amendment before it was inserted into our Constitution, showing great courage when it was easier to comply. We owe a debt of gratitude to these people. We also owe a debt to the hundreds and thousands of people who went out canvassing, often for the first time, to try to open hearts and change minds. I hope they will remember that their movement was watched by the entire world and that they will remain engaged in politics because there is much, much more to do. There is always more to do.

Most of all, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who shared their personal stories in recent weeks and months, women and men who opened their hearts and so enabled others to open their minds. We were moved by their searing experiences and we were determined to ensure that their stories were not shared in vain. Saturday's result shows that we heard what they had to say loud and clear. The days of cold, hard judgment, which cast a long shadow in this country, are banished to the past. To younger women and men we said, this is your country and one you can be proud of.

Ireland's past is a foreign country; we did things differently there. Now let us look to the future. In advance of the referendum, the Government published the general scheme of the Bill so that people would know what they were voting for. This morning the Minister for Health received approval from Cabinet to start drafting this legislation formally and as a priority. However, it is not just about legislation and new laws. There are a number of other items that we also need, including the development of clinical guidelines for doctors written by the medical colleges and institutions, and also the regulation and licensing of certain medicines. All things going to plan, we will proceed with the drafting of the new laws required and bring the legislation into the Oireachtas before the summer recess. Our speed will be tempered only by our determination to get this right, to ensure a safe service for women and ensure there are no flaws in the legislation that would open it up to legal challenge and delay. We are confident we can complete all this work before the end of the year and we look forward to working with Deputies and Senators from all sides to ensure we get this right.

We also restate our promise that we want to do more to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions further. We want more sex education and wider availability of contraception and emergency contraception. Abortion rates are already falling and teenage pregnancies are at their lowest since the 1960s because of them. The Government will continue to improve access to sexual health and education to reduce crisis pregnancies and abortions further in the year ahead, so that they become rare.

We want to continue to make Ireland a better place in which to raise a family. We have started on this, with two years of free preschool now guaranteed to every child, free GP visits for young children, subsidised child care, paid paternity leave, as well as increases in the working family payment and home carer's tax credit for two years in a row. We will do more because we want Ireland to be one of the best places in the world in which to raise a family - families in their many forms.

All weekend I found myself reflecting on the referendum result and what the scale of the victory meant. It demonstrates that politics can bring about change and that democracy does work. On Saturday I quoted one of my favourite poets, Maya Angelou, because her whole life reminds us of how one can transform the agony of one's life experiences into a beautiful call for equality before the law, tolerance and respect. Saturday's result was such a call. It is a call which has resounded around the world.

The outcome of the referendum has been as clear and decisive as it could possibly have been. There is no doubt about what we must do. With an overwhelming majority, the people have given the Oireachtas the right and the duty to legislate quickly for a new approach, founded on the core principle of trusting women and their doctors.

It is an historic change but not one which came about easily. It is a revolutionary moment fundamentally based on the tireless, passionate and loud advocacy of active citizens. This change could not have come about without the incredible bravery and dignity of women who came forward, both publicly and on a more personal level, to tell their stories about the cruel inflexibility of a system which had both judged them and denied them care. I personally thank the women and men in many settings and all parts of the country who spoke to me about their experience of life under the eighth amendment. From all ages and backgrounds, they were driven by a determination that what had happened to them should not be allowed to keep happening to others.

The best part of the campaign was how the cause for change was led by the largest and most diverse civil society campaign ever assembled in the country. Led by women and committed to keeping the voices of women central to the debate, the Together for Yes campaign, as well as the umbrella organisations which operated before the campaign, provided an immense service for our democracy. I also acknowledge the tireless work of groups of doctors and nurses to ensure we had a fact-based debate capable of overcoming efforts to distort and manipulate public opinion.

A key to the success of the referendum was a proposal which respected the evidence of what changes were required to address the clear failures of the eighth amendment. The Citizens' Assembly had pointed in a general direction but proved that it was possible to ensure a well structured debate could allow people the space to question themselves and reach challenging conclusions. It was the proposal of the joint Oireachtas committee which went before the people. It showed just how much could be achieved when we worked together to try to find a consensus. The chair of the committee, Senator Catherine Noone, carried out her role in an exemplary manner and was 100% correct in emphasising expertise over advocacy. The tone of debate central to this being possible emerged from the debate on Deputy Clare Daly's Bill which directly began the process which led to the referendum.

The proposal that there be a 12-week period was, for many, a risky decision. However, there was no other way of dealing with the reality of how to end an inflexible and judgmental system. It reflected both medical reality and the basic need to trust in the decisions of women. The fact that the 12-weeks provision gained in support the more it was debated, as well as surviving an aggressive attempt to paint it as going too far, means that we now have real clarity on the principles the people wish to guide our legislation. On a personal level, I acknowledge Deputies Billy Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan who proposed the 12-weeks provision at the committee. Given the urgency to end the current law, the clarity of both the result and the promised legislation, together with the all-party work which shaped the legislation, full and rapid enactment is our basic duty. We will facilitate this in any way possible, including by having extra sittings.

We also face a new challenge about how we discuss abortion in the new reality where the law is based on trust of women and medical professionals, rather than a constitutional prohibition. There is no democratic country in the world where there is no ongoing debate about abortion. Ireland will be no different. People with strong conscientiously held beliefs must be able to speak. Our democracy will be undermined if we deny their rights. However, we must act to make sure the extreme tactics, seen particularly in America, have no place in Ireland. Many of us have at different times been confronted by the extreme behaviour of a small minority. They employ shock tactics and aggression to make their point. This repelled parents during the campaign when they were forced to explain graphic images and extreme claims erected on posters outside hospitals, schools and many other places. We must from the first moment protect women and medical professionals against the extreme radicalism seen elsewhere that tries to block the operation of democratically agreed policies.

We also have to learn from the campaign to protect our democracy. The Government's complacency about the abuse of online advertising was cruelly exposed. The weakness of key elements of how we oversee referendums and elections is there for all to see. We must act now and not wait until we see here the abuses unfortunately common in other countries.

The people have had their say. They looked at the evidence, engaged in a long debate and reached an absolutely clear decision. They want change. They want laws which end the inhuman inflexibility which was embodied in the eighth amendment. They want us to trust the decisions of women and the medical professionals on whom they rely for care. We have had a campaign dominated by the voices of women and stories which have challenged all of us to listen. It is now up to us to act by rapidly and comprehensively implementing the people's decision.

Saturday was a momentous day for all the people of the State. Ireland is changing and the old certainties are being challenged. A new and better Ireland is emerging. Saturday was a day when those who had been silenced demanded to be heard. It was a day when we collectively and decisively broke from the past. It was a day when the people said this was our time and our Ireland. It was a day when a substantial majority said in a loud voice that we were compassionate, that we trusted women and that we wanted doctors to act free from the threat of criminal sanction.

I thank and congratulate the Together for Yes group on a magnificent campaign. I also acknowledge the doctors and lawyers who provided their expertise and experience and were listened to. I commend every activist from my party, Sinn Féin, and all others for their hard work across the State. Above all else, the campaign was marked by the women who had come forward to share their personal stories about dealing with tragic circumstances. In that regard, I acknowledge the group Terminations for Medical Reasons that was truly magnificent in its campaigning.

As we progress to legislating for this decision made by the people, our thoughts still remain with all those who have suffered and died as a result of an amendment which should never have been in the Constitution. I sound the name of Savita Halappanavar whom we remember in these times. I express our solidarity with her family and every family which has suffered because of the eighth amendment.

The campaign created a space for Ireland, North and South, to look at the experiences of women. We are the better for it. Their voices have been heard and can no longer be silenced by guilt or neglected by the Government.

Ireland is changing and this is evident in the vibrant "Yes" campaign headed by women and many young people. I wish to thank them and mark their achievement.

The need and the case for change to protect women and our lives is now unanswerable not only in this jurisdiction but throughout our island. We need Irish law, Irish service provision and Irish regulation to keep our women safe. It is unacceptable to those of us in the South that women and girls would buy abortion pills over the Internet and take them without medical supervision. It is unacceptable to us that they may be fearful of seeking medical assistance should something go wrong due to the threat of criminal sanction. It is equally unacceptable that any woman or girl in the North would be left in those situations. It is completely unacceptable that any of these women or girls are criminalised or hauled before the courts.

The referendum result tells us that Irish norms have changed, that the absolutist position on abortion as a black-and-white issue is gone and that people understand this now in all its complexity. Even those who have a strong moral objection to abortion now understand that, in the complexity of life, women and their doctors have to be free to act, have to be afforded choice and have a right to choice.

The imperative now is to act on the instruction of the people. The result was overwhelmingly definitive, such that I have no doubt the message has been heard loud and clear by Government and all legislators. The imperative comes from the fact that women must be protected. Pregnancy, by definition, is time-sensitive. Every week and every month we fail to enact the legislation, we put our women in the way of danger. Consequently, we must act speedily. We have a history of foot-dragging on the issue of abortion because it is considered sensitive and difficult - I acknowledge that it is. However, if the referendum is to mean anything for legislators and the political system, it is that the days of delay are over and that the time for action is now. Those of us in Sinn Féin recognise that imperative. We maintain the Government cannot delay and must act to bring forward the legislation, and I understand the Government will do so. We will work constructively and diligently with the Government on this matter. We have no problem supporting special sittings during the summer months to ensure we get the legislation right and that we get it passed in a timely fashion. Let us go forward together to ensure this is the first step in creating that new Ireland. As this chapter in our journey to full equality closes, let us look forward to the next one with the same determination and solidarity.

I said yesterday that for many people Saturday was a day of great excitement and that for some of us it was equally a day of relief. Clearly, 35 years is a long time to wait to repeal a measure we opposed in the first place. When I was in the Seanad in 1983 we came close to defeating the amendment. I recognise that would not have stopped the referendum in 1983. It would merely have delayed it but it might have afforded the time for reflection on what was being done. I am mindful today of the strong clear reasoned arguments put forward then in the Seanad by Members, including Mary Robinson, Michael D. Higgins and Catherine McGuinness. I am mindful of the courage of Dick Spring, Barry Desmond, Eileen Desmond and others in the Dáil despite searing opposition from some. Over the weekend I thought fondly of the late Monica Barnes, a champion of equality. It is sad that she was not here to see a change she had worked so strongly to bring about for so many years.

Lessons were learned from that rushed and politically damaging episode, when a small minority bullied the two largest parties into proposing an amendment that the then Taoiseach described as dangerous and that was opposed by the then Attorney General. Those were truly desperate days. The contrast with the process engaged in by this Dáil could not be more marked. A deliberative Citizens' Assembly, chaired by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, provided a platform and a calm atmosphere for all the issues to be fully addressed and for all arguments to be heard. This was followed by the diligent work of the all-party committee ably chaired by Senator Catherine Noone. The committee arrived at a set of proposals that attracted broad cross-party support. We subsequently learned those proposals attracted the support of the people as well.

Yet, the seeds of change were sown many years ago. In 1992, the Supreme Court laid bare the contradictions inherent in the eighth amendment. If the evidence of turning a blind eye to the issue of abortion was not obvious enough, the people formally enacted provisions in our Constitution in 1992 to facilitate information to be provided on abortion and for women to travel for abortion but not to have abortions here. The issue was returned to in 2002 when a further effort was made to remove the grounds of suicide and reverse the Supreme Court decision. That effort too was defeated by the people.

Yet, it was the tragic death of Savita that radically changed things. It showed the cowardice of our political system, which had failed to show the leadership that had been called for over many years. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was among the most difficult tranches of legislation enacted by the last Government. It was pursued line by line and fought detail by detail. It is not right to say Savita did not die in vain – she did. She should not have died. Nothing can change that. Yet, people were so horrified by the reality created by the medical-legal environment of the eighth amendment and the tragic way it contributed to the untimely death of Savita that a grassroots movement was sparked throughout Ireland. That led to the repeal. It opened the doors for hundreds of women to tell their stories and shine a light on the pain that the eighth amendment had inflicted. The result on Saturday shows how conclusively the people can make a decision on these matters. I hope it finally draws a line under decades of struggle.

Abortion will always remain a divisive issue but the scale of the vote - two thirds of the electorate voted "Yes" - has definitively changed the context of how terminations of pregnancy can and must be considered in Ireland. What was once a taboo subject is now openly discussed.

For 35 years we have denied something essential to Irish women. We have denied them security and protection at crucial points in their lives. We have denied them dignity too. Saturday was a levelling day for them. Our job now, as others have said, is to quickly implement the legislation and right this historical wrong.

Deputies Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith will share five minutes.

I want to invoke the name of Savita, as others have, as well as the Citizens' Assembly. There is no doubt that only for the strong pro-choice message that the Citizens' Assembly delivered politicians in here would not have gone as far as they were forced to go. We should register who delivered the "Yes" given the gender-quake and youth-quake that took place on Friday. Among female 18 to 24 year olds there was a 94% increase in voting compared to the 2016 general election. There was an increase in women voting in every age and category but it was particularly evident among young people. They persuaded others and other generations to fall in with a new message.

I never doubted we could have this resounding message. The battle was not winning the referendum; the battle was getting a referendum granted from the Dáil over the past five years. Once it got into the hands of ordinary people I had faith that we could persuade them why this change was necessary. There is a danger that we could see a re-writing of history to the effect that politicians going on a journey delivered this change. Actually, it derives from the grassroots movement that has built up, especially since the death of Savita.

It was not a quiet revolution, as the Taoiseach informed the world, it was a noisy and boisterous one. People went on strike, marched and took civil disobedience actions in a relentless fashion to force the issue onto the political agenda. The socialist left in the Dáil was the only reflection of the movement taking place for a long time and until recently. The Taoiseach has now appealed to people to stay involved, albeit it could be a dangerous message for him to give out. I agree that people should stay mobilised until we win free contraception and proper and objective sex education. The Solidarity Bill should now be progressed. There are also other issues relating to the separation of church and State.

What about the housing crisis? I appeal to people to stay involved to tackle those issues and to continue to mobilise to call the Government out in the same way we did on repeal. I will be going to the North on Thursday to support the abortion pill bus being organised by ROSA. The next step is to legalise abortion in the North.

Having been there in 1983, I remember that the eighth amendment was seen very much as a line in the sand for the deeply conservative and darkly religious regime which had dominated this country since the foundation of the State. Since 1983, we have learned a great deal with the exposure of all of the scandals around the treatment of women and children in institutions like the Magdalen laundries and the Tuam mother and baby home. However, we still have a great deal to learn about how we treat women's health. We need to bring closure quickly to the questions of symphisiotomy and the cervical cancer scandal. That line in the sand is gone for the old conservative religious dogma of this country and the tide is gushing in.

The Dáil needs to look seriously over the next period at the question of the separation of church and State. Yesterday, I was contacted by a couple from Limerick who spoke to me after I tabled the €1 Bill to decriminalise the abortion pill in 2016. In 2016, they had just returned from Liverpool with their little baby girl in a box in the back of the car. They were extraordinarily sad but wanted to thank all of the Deputies in the Dáil who supported repeal. Since 2016, they have had a baby who is now four months old. They had decided they were not going to have any more children because they might be put through the trauma of being exiled from their own country. They have now decided to try again. To those who were telling us we were baby-killers, the impact of the eighth amendment on women's health has been lifted and people can see what are the real issues in maternity care.

The key issue in this debate was choice. Consistently, 62% of the people said women should be given a choice. Now that they have a choice, they need to be able to choose, not only to control the number of children they have and the number of pregnancies they are able to terminate, but to be able to say they want a family. For that, they need a home, education and health care. The Government has failed miserably to provide tens of thousands of people with that choice. It is a serious economic, social and political issue which we need to address together as a community which has fought and won this magnificent referendum in big numbers. We need to get real choice for all women of all classes.

Yesterday, we were walking across Dublin and we met a Donegal man on a bicycle who was mad to talk. He said abortion had been an issue all his adult life and he could not believe it was over. He said he never wanted to hear the word again. I felt an enormous sympathy. What he said summed up exactly the way I felt about it myself. For so many, the weekend's vote was like an enormous weight being lifted. A ball and chain that dogged us all our adult lives was finally gone. I cannot believe that I am 50 years of age and it has taken this long. It has taken my daughter to come home for her first vote to get us here. For so many women, it represented so much. It is almost like society atoning for everything it has done to women in this country; atoning for how we stigmatised women faced with crisis pregnancies, the Magdalen laundries, the mother and baby homes, the shaming, the forced adoptions and the robbed identities about which we will hear later this afternoon. It still goes on.

The biggest sentiment behind the "Yes" vote and the question people asked most often was "Who am I to judge?". They said it was not their decision. So many people in our society have acknowledged that life is hard and that there are choices a lot of people have to make, including today, which they would really rather never having to make. It is not easy to parent alone in this State. It is not easy to raise a child or children with disabilities with the lack of support that is there. It is not easy to find out one is pregnant to a violent man. It is not easy, of course, to hear that one's much-wanted pregnancy has a fatal anomaly which is incompatible with life. As a society, we were never going to be able to end that pain, but we could make sure we did not add to it.

When Deputies Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and I introduced our legislation in 2012, only 20 Deputies voted with us. At that time, four incredible women went on the "Late Late Show". It was the first time people in this State openly identified themselves as having travelled for terminations. They were Amanda, Arlette, Jenny and Ruth who later founded the group Terminations for Medical Reasons. Is it not appalling that they and their colleagues had to lay bare their most appalling pain and tragedy in order to turn that into a social movement which changed history? They should not have had to do that. I am in awe of them and all of their colleagues who took part in the campaign. When we assembled here and Deputy Wallace moved the legislation on fatal foetal abnormalities, those women were in the Gallery. Afterwards, their hearts were broken that the House had voted against them again. There were people who travelled that day and there is probably someone who is travelling today also. We should not have compounded their pain but the fact that they stepped forward was huge.

It was not the beginning of the campaign. Some rewriting has taken place in that regard. However, it was the beginning of the final phase. We had the founding then of the abortion rights campaign and the first march for choice, which was the first openly pro-choice activity in the State. It was only after the march that, sadly, Savita died and the move to repeal gained a greater urgency. Many people came on board the repeal movement then and I am delighted they did. However, we should remember the time before the glory days when it was the Well Woman Centre, the Irish Family Planning Association and the Abortion Support Network in the UK which took in our women and girls and paid for their fares. If I had to name one person more than anyone else, it was Ailbhe Smyth, a giant of this movement who stood there when there was no glory to be had.

I acknowledge genuinely the role the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, played albeit it took them a while to get there. I have no doubt they were helped by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, at Cabinet and, definitely, by Deputy Kate O'Connell at the parliamentary party. While I am not sure they would have got there as quickly without Deputies Zappone and O'Connell, they were at the helm and steered the ship and history will testify that they delivered. I thank them for that. Let us be honest however and point out that politicians have not led on this issue. We have not even followed until recently. This has been an uphill battle. A boulder has been pushed up a hill for decades and no one here was behind it. Let us be honest about it for once. No one was involved. In fact, a lot of people here were sitting on the boulder, making it even more difficult for those outside who wanted to push for change. Others, of course, decided to jump ahead and claim some of the glory once the boulder was at the top of the hill and about to go down the other side, even though they had done none of the pushing. I do not say that to score points, but to learn the lesson because there is going to be a next time. Perhaps we can learn something next time around. We need to move to enact the legislation. Even today, however, I have heard people trying to out-posture each other as to who will be the most radical, claiming we should cancel all holidays between now and forever and bring in legislation tomorrow or even yesterday. It is nonsense. Can we please cop on with the games, which are despicable?

My last point is for students and young people. I am proud of the student movement. I was one of those students years ago but we did not succeed in changing the world. I hope this generation will. The young people who mobilised and enfranchised their peers are the legends in this. I hope they make a better job of changing the world than we did.

Is Deputy Harty sharing time with Deputy Danny Healy-Rae?

I think so.

It is very difficult to follow that contribution from Deputy Clare Daly and I want to acknowledge it. There was raw emotion in that contribution.

The people have spoken in a strong, clear voice to repeal the eighth amendment. It is quite obvious that the Irish people put substantial thought into their decision. They put quiet, emotional thought into their decision. It was unseen by the political elite and by the political pollsters that such an emphatic two to one majority would come to pass. It was felt that it would be substantially less than that.

The people voted across the divide. They voted across the class divide, the creed divide, the age divide and the urban-rural divide. This referendum has shown how far the Irish people have come in their thinking over the past 35 years. To vote in a clear majority, two to one, was stunning.

This process demonstrates the strength of our democracy but it also demonstrates that a referendum is the ultimate citizens' assembly, where people make their voices known and the Oireachtas must respond. As Chairman of the Committee on Health, I have the particular responsibility of facilitating the examination of this legislation, through pre-legislative scrutiny but also through the Committee Stage. I recognise the urgency with which this legislation needs to come to pass. We must also recognise that it is a process that has to be examined carefully so that we get the legislation correct and ensure it stands up to any challenge that may subsequently be put to it.

The central issue revolving around this legislation will be the provision of safe, effective and legally delivered termination of pregnancy. I believe this will be a new service within the health service and there will be new responsibilities on the medical profession. There will have to be clinical guidelines and ethical guidelines, which will be very important. We must also approve new procedures and new medications.

The majority of the terminations of pregnancy will be delivered before 12 weeks. That will be delivered within primary care, through a GP-led primary care service. This will be unique in the world because I am not aware of any other jurisdiction which has a GP-led termination service. We need to look at this carefully. It may well be that these services will have to be provided in GP-led clinics and not just through GP-led standard practices because it is not simple a matter of writing a prescription. There will be a number of consultations involved in this and there will be the necessity to have dating scanning because the medication which is prescribed will vary depending on the length of the pregnancy. These are matters that must be dealt with through the medical organisations. It may well be that GPs will opt in to this process rather than each GP in his or her own surgery providing the service. There is a level of expertise which will be needed in regard to general practice and that has to be dealt with through the representative bodies.

I would also like to refer to the fact that there will be conscientious objection to this. If the medical profession is to be reflected in the vote, then one third of doctors will not want to participate in this process. That goes for nurses and allied health professionals as well. That has to be built into the legislation.

We must dwell on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the prevention of crisis pregnancies. The committee dealt comprehensively with introducing safe-sex education into our schools, so that crisis pregnancies are avoided, and to make available contraception. Contraception should be made freely available. I note that is the Minister's intention.

The delivery of termination in the first 12 weeks should be done through a State system. There should not be a cost attached to it. We should not have a two-tier termination service. We need to have a consistent service which is delivered through the public system that is safe and effective.

Are the Social Democrats and the Green Party sharing five minutes?

We are and we are sharing time with Deputy Seamus Healy.

I did not vote for the eighth amendment in 1983 and, to be perfectly honest, I felt like it cast a shadow. I did not think that shadow would last for 35 years but, thankfully, it has been removed by the citizens of this country. I must say the overwhelming emotion is one of relief.

It was an honest process and it was evidence based. The Citizens' Assembly and the all-party Oireachtas committee not only recommended repeal but outlined to the citizens what they might expect, and that has enhanced politics. It was a resounding result and it behoves every legislator to respect the mandate and legislate according to what the citizens wish.

Saturday's result is a vindication for those of us who have argued for 35 years that it was time for the citizens to have their voice. It strengthened the process and I regret that there were Members in this House who wanted to deny people that opportunity.

It is clear that Ireland has moved on and so must our systems. The common call I heard in the wake of Saturday most of all was the need for school divestment to escalate. We will see much more of that now.

The other aspect that has become very obvious is the number of new people who have been mobilised and became active, particularly many young women. It is all the better for our political system if they remain connected. I particularly acknowledge the role of Together for Yes and acknowledge the point about Ms Ailbhe Smyth that Deputy Clare Daly has made. I get a sense that this and the previous referendum on marriage equality have started to put us into a different place where we can finally start seeing a real republic emerging. There is much work to be done on that, but school divestment and the likes of the National Maternity Hospital are two critical issues that we will see more of in the future.

What occurred this weekend was a truly remarkable seismic shift in our society and a historic maturing in our country. Tens of thousands of people around the country campaigned, canvassed, told their stories and had difficult conversations with loved ones and they delivered a "Yes" vote. The people of Ireland spoke with a clear voice that, no matter the difficulties or decisions facing our people, we will look after them in our own country.

I congratulate the Together for Yes campaign and thank everyone who campaigned and canvassed in their droves throughout the length and breadth of the country. The dedication, energy and passion for change I saw in the members of the local Dublin-Rathdown Together for Yes group was inspiring. I hope that everyone who became engaged and active in seeking a change through the course of that campaign and every activist who knocked on doors, delivered leaflets, stood at stalls on a Saturday afternoon, continues to fight for change and remains active in politics, and helps us all to fully realise the power of a nation engaged in a true democratic process.

Every Irish woman who in the past was shamed and forced to travel abroad will hopefully have felt a sense of joy, or at least relief, on Saturday knowing that her sister, daughter or friend will not have to face a similar journey. This campaign highlighted the need to put in place more supports for all women and mothers in Irish society. By addressing the challenges in Ireland's housing, social welfare, education and economic systems which disproportionately affect young women, we can move towards a really pro-choice society where every prospective mother has real freedom in what she decides to do. It is up to us in this House now to ensure that full effect is given to the will of the people as quickly and as clearly as possible and that we as a society take caring and compassionate responsibility for those women who for so long were left behind and driven away.

With the minute available to me, I commend and thank each and every member of the Tipperary Together for Yes group. They organised the campaign in Tipperary brilliantly. They brought commitment, courage, energy and enthusiasm to that campaign and as one who campaigned against and voted against the amendment in 1983, I welcome the resounding success.

I would like to see the legislation enacted quickly, including sitting during the summer recess.

There are measures which could and should be taken immediately, and these include the amendment of the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State For Termination of Pregnancies) Act 1995 to allow medical doctors to refer women abroad and to allow for the sharing of medical records and notes. The 14 year prison sentence should be immediately abolished. We know not the day nor the hour when another Savita case might arise. The Oireachtas should amend the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 to provide for terminations on grounds of serious harm to the health of the woman. These measures could be taken quickly and implemented within a few weeks.