I thank the Deputy for the question. I am very much aware of the concerns that women in Northern Ireland have regarding access to termination of pregnancy, which are similar to those faced by women in the Republic prior to the recent change in the law here as a result of the referendum. I hope that we arrive at a situation in the not too distant future where Northern Ireland makes its own decisions on this issue and moves in a direction where it can care for women in its health service. As long as that remains not to be the case I want to make sure we can offer care. I know that the Deputy and I share this view for women on the island of Ireland, regardless of whether a person lives North or South.
I believe it is welcome and it is progress that women who live in Northern Ireland can now access termination services in this jurisdiction. The Deputy will be aware, however, that under the Health Act 1970, eligibility for public health services is based on a person being ordinarily resident in the State. This is the bedrock on which our eligibility system for health services, and many other public services, is founded. The necessary provisions were made in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 to enable universal access for women living in the State to the services in question without charge. Women who live in Northern Ireland can access termination services in this jurisdiction - which is an important message to send out - but would, in effect, be doing so not in the universal and free way that women in the Republic of Ireland can.
To be very clear, I do not believe this is fair and I share the Deputy's wish to facilitate access without charge to termination of pregnancy services to women from Northern Ireland. Such a proposal, however, raises a number of legal and policy issues. I have had some initial discussion with the Attorney General about the matter. He has indicated that as a proposition along these lines appears not to have been considered before, it would require a fair bit of work. I, therefore, intend to undertake such an examination of the issues in conjunction with the Attorney General and other Government colleagues as necessary. We had a good meeting when Deputy O'Reilly brought civic society groups that are campaigning on this matter in Northern Ireland to Leinster House. I was pleased to have a chance to meet the Deputy and those groups. I would very much welcome the chance to do that again and to see, together and on a cross-party basis, how we can rectify this. My policy intention was clear; I want women in Northern Ireland to be able to access the services they can. To make sure they can access the services in a universal and free way is something I am currently trying to find a solution to. I remain absolutely committed to working to find one.