Irish referendum on abortion to be held by end of May, Taoiseach says

A referendum on Ireland's constitutional restriction on abortion will take place by the end of May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced.

Citizens will be asked whether they want to retain the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution - that enshrines equal rights for the mother and unborn - or repeal it and replace it with an enabling provision that allows the Irish parliament to legislate on the issue, Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach said if people voted to repeal, the Government would then table draft legislation that would allow for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

After a four hour cabinet meeting on the contentious issue at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: "I know this will be a difficult decision for the Irish people to make.

"I know it is a very personal and private issue and for most of us it is not a black and white issue, it is one that is grey - the balance between the rights of a pregnant woman and the foetus or unborn."