I propose to take Questions Nos. 567, 568, 569 and 570 together.
The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 was signed into law on 20 December 2018 and commenced on 1 January 2019. Under section 7 of the Act, a review of the operation of the Act must be initiated within three years of the commencement of the Act, i.e., before January 2022.
As I have stated previously, the review will comprise a three-part approach to appraise the operation of the Act, with strands focusing on service users, service providers and a public consultation. Independent research commissioned to inform the service user and service provider strands will form key elements of the review.
The review of the operation of the Act has now commenced. As part of the first phase of the review, I announced a public consultation (www.gov.ie/topreview) on the operation of the Act.
As I stated during my appearance before the Joint Committee on Health on 8 December, it is my intention to appoint an independent Chair to lead the second phase of the review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.
As the costs involved in contracting an independent Chair to conduct the review were estimated as exceeding €25,000, the legal advice I received was that the Department was obliged under procurement rules to tender for the appointment.
The tender process is currently in train. Given the expertise required for the position, a small number of candidates, identified as having suitable experience, were contacted and invited to apply for the role of independent Chair. It is my intention that the appointment will be made as soon as possible.
Discussions regarding a group to support the review of the operation of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 will be held with the independent Chair once an appointment has been made, so that he/she may have an input into its composition. I expect that the Chair appointed will also have an input into the terms of reference for the review, and any necessary clarifications.