The Government's formal announcement of an abortion referendum in May 2018 has been met with disappointment by those against a repeal.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced last night the details of the referendum, which will ask the people if they want to delete article 40.3.3 and insert a new clause to enable the Oireachtas to legislate on the termination of pregnancies.

Mr Varadkar expressed his own decision to support the repeal and said, “If the amendment is approved in a Referendum, abortion in Ireland will become safe, legal and rare, in the situations provided for by the Oireachtas. If the referendum is defeated, the law will remain as it is now.”

The Government announcement was described by pro-lifers as ‘as bad as anyone could have envisaged’.

Pro Life Campaign spokesperson, Dr Ruth Cullen last night said: “It is a very sad and serious moment for our country. Tonight, the Government brought forward a proposal that for the first time in our history would withdraw basic human rights from a group of vulnerable defenceless individuals instead of strengthening their constitutional protections.

“They can’t disguise the fact that what’s being proposed is solely about stripping unborn babies of all meaningful legal protections.

“The right to life is an inalienable right. It’s not something that can be conferred or withheld by the State at its pleasure. The Eighth Amendment acknowledges this basic right to life; it doesn’t claim to be its initiator – merely its protector.

Dr Cullen said, “In the coming weeks, it will become clear that the Government’s proposal would lead to abortion on demand if voted for in the referendum. As people come to realise this, I have every confidence they will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment with a renewed commitment to building a more welcoming society for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.”