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Responding to Mr Harris's speech, Caroline Simons, legal consultant to the Pro Life Campaign, said: "It was chilling listening to Minister Harris saying he was "really looking forward" to bringing the Referendum Bill before the Dail today".

Ministers approved the bill in the last hour, and the next stage will require the Dáil and Seanad to give their approval before a date can be fixed for the referendum. Today, Mr Harris stated it will be hard to meet the May deadline.

A Referendum Commission was formally established by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy on Friday.

The Government has published a six-page policy paper on abortion, setting out its plans for abortion legislation provided the upcoming referendum results in the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

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"Instead International Women's Day 2018 is being used as part of the government's choreography to introduce abortion on demand into Ireland".

Mr Harris said he is now proposing to introduce a time period that is required to elapse between the assessment by a medical practitioners and the procedure being carried out. Under these proposals, an appeals mechanism will be available to the woman in the event she is unsatisfied with the outcome.

It follows a unanimous cabinet decision yesterday to approve the wording to be put to the people.

This decision means there will to be no objection or delay to the referendum, which will still go ahead in late May.

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On Wednesday, Ireland's Supreme Court cleared the way for an abortion referendum planned for the end of May, ruling that the unborn do not have inherent constitutional rights outside the right to life in the eighth amendment of the constitution.

Ailbhe Smyth of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment said: "This is a historic and momentous day for Ireland, and for the women of Ireland in particular".

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan and Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton also said they would campaign for repeal.

But he said "retaining the Eighth Amendment does not negate the fact that abortion is already a reality in this country".

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