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Simon Harris

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Yesterday, Ireland voted by 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent to abolish the eighth amendment from our Constitution.

The turnout for this referendum exceeded that of the marriage referendum in 2015. Over 2,159,655 people came out and voted, with 1,429,981 people voting in favour of repealing the eighth amendment.

The results have been welcomed by the public with hundreds gathering in Dublin Castle to hear the official results. The crowd erupted when it was revealed that the Yes side had succeeded. During the moving moment, the crowd started chanting ‘Yes We Did’.

Speaking of the landslide victory, Leo Varadkar said: “Today is a historic day for Ireland. We’re saying as a nation that we trust women and that we believe women should be respected in making the decisions they make.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, who has been hailed a hero for his support of the Yes side shared: “Yesterday our country said to women, we stand with you. We said to women -take our hand, not the boat. It has been incredible to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we work to create a country which treats women with compassion. I will always be in your corner."

Following the Yes side’s victory, Simon Harris revealed that the new legal framework to replace the Eighth Amendment will be drafted during the summer.

He hopes that it will be in place by the end of the year.

The expected legislation will make abortion available for women who are no more than 12 weeks pregnant. Women won't have to give a reason for their decision and will need a GP to clarify that they are not passed the twelfth week of pregnancy. 

Termination will be allowed past 12 weeks if:

  • The woman's health is in danger or her life is at risk
  • The foetus has not reached viability, and
  • It is appropriate to carry out the termination of pregnancy in order to avert that risk
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New plans being considered by the Department of Health could see charges for the morning-after-pill be abolished or significantly reduced, as part of the Government's new sexual health programme.

Speaking yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris outlined plans for a comprehensive women's health programme which will aim to allow for greater access to condoms, emergency contraception, as well as a potential price decrease for the everyday contraceptive pill with a view to making it completely free in the future. 

As it stands, the emergency contraceptive pill can cost anywhere between €15-€50, while the everyday contraceptive pill costs an average of €10 per month (not including the GP fee). 

According to The Journal, a new three-year education programme will also be rolled out in schools across the country which will include enhanced resources and lesson plans around the subject of sexual health. 

As well as that, the new programme will also include a 'safer sex' advertising campaign and sexual health promotion training for professionals in youth sector, those working with at-risk groups, and for parents. 

Minister Simon Harris stressed that these changes will go ahead, regardless of the result of the upcoming referendum on the legalisation of abortion services. 

“I want to make it clear that these initiatives can and will be implemented even if the proposed referendum is not passed,” he said.

It's understood the proposed initiatives will be funded in 2019, which, according to the Minister, will give him time to prepare the ground for the changes. 

 

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Minister for Health Simon Harris will draft legislation for the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment. 

The legislation will include provision for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks, as per the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee

He intends to have a draft published by late March. 

'Whether the Eighth Amendment is in our Constitution, or indeed not in our Constitution, abortion is a reality for Irish women,' he said, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

'I cannot close my eyes and block my ears to the fact that 3,265 of our citizens travelled to the UK in 2016 from every county in Ireland.'

'I cannot stand over a situation where the abortion pill is illegally accessed in this country and women, perhaps in the privacy of their own bedroom, in a lonely isolated place, [are] taking a pill without any medical supervision.'

He did not provide the date of the intended referendum. 

However, after a special Cabinet meeting last night, it was announced that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will be held in late May or early June. 

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Health Minster Simon Harris opened this evening's “historic” debate on the Eight Amendment by revealing figures showing the amount of women who have travelled for abortions since 1980.

“This is happening in Ireland today. That's a fact. How can we ignore it? How can we consider it alright?” he asked the Dáil.

During his opening statement, the Fine Gael TD said it was important to recognise the “sad reality that we have been exporting this issue,” before bringing attention to new figures which showed that 3,265 women travelled to the UK from Ireland for an abortion in 2016.

A county-by-county breakdown revealed that 1,175 of the women travelled from Dublin, with others mainly coming from Cork (241), Kildare (130) and Galway (113).

“These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives,” the Health Minister said.

“Each woman is dealing with her own personal situation and making what is a deeply difficult decision.”

The figures also showed that over 1,500 women were aged between 20 and 29, while 255 were over 40.

10 girls under the age of 16 were shown to have travelled for an abortion in 2016.

Meanwhile, over 50 per cent of the women said they were either married or in a relationship.

“I can’t help but wonder what we would have done if we didn’t have a neighbouring island to help us turn a blind eye. And sometimes turning a blind eye is the same as turning your back.”

The Government have agreed to draft a Bill that would allow a referendum on the Eighth Amendment to take place, though the wording of the bill has not yet been finalised.

Discussions are expected to continue into tomorrow.

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The Irish Government has approved an opt-out scheme for organ donation.

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris, brought forward a motion to the Cabinet which will see families give authorisation for organ donation.

The aim of the new Bill, called The Human Tissue Bill, is to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from the deceased.

Image result for the irish cabinet 2017

This will mean that families will have the right to stop the organs of their loved ones being donated, if they wish to do so.

According to The Irish Times, Mr Harris said: “This has been long-talked about in this country and today we take a step closer to it becoming a reality.

“An opt-out system of consent for organ donation and accompanying publicity campaign will raise awareness among individuals and encourage discussion among families of their intentions in relation to organ donation.

“In this way individuals can increase the chances that their organs might be utilised after their death, and can ensure that those left behind will have the satisfaction of knowing that their wishes were carried through.”

The first draft of The Human Tissue Bill, which has been promised for several years now, will be brought to the Cabinet this Autumn.

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From July 2017, medical card holder will be able to get the morning-after pill for free, directly from a pharmacy.

Currently, medical card holders must make an appointment with their GP in order to access the medication free of charge, however once this move comes into action, no doctors visit or prescription will be required.

Minster for Health, Simon Harris, signed the change into law yesterday after announcing his intention to do so last month.

Pharmacists are welcoming the move as they say they are healthcare professionals with the competence to dispense such medication to their patients.

They also argued that it was not fair to restrict a medicine known to work with greater effect when taken sooner.

Five years ago, restrictions on the availability of the medication were lifted when it was decided that private patients could purchase the product over the counter from pharmacies.  

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Organ donation has been a tricky subject, ever since the first procedure of a kidney transplant from a deceased donor to a living being went successfully in 1962. 

From the end of this year, hospitals in Ireland will assume that everyone is an organ donor, regardless of an organ donation card. 

New laws are to be introduced that will presume consent for donation, unless family of the deceased or the potential donor themselves chooses to opt out.

The opt-out system rather than the opt-in system hopes to increase the number of deceased organ donors.

'We have a lot of work to do, and the area that I want to see progressed is the Human Tissue Bill,' said Health Minister Simon Harris, speaking at the opening of Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland’s new headquarters.

'I’d like to move to an opt-out system, where people have an opportunity to have given presumed consent – useless you actually opt out, it’s presumed you would like your organs to be donated'

'I’m hopeful that (legislation) will be passed by the end of the year and implemented in 2018.'

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The morning-after-pill will now be available to medical card holders without a GP visit.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has announced this morning that people with medical cards will have access to emergency contraception directly from their pharmacies, free of charge from July 2017.

'Announcing this morning that access to emergency contraception directly through the pharmacy will be available on the General Medical Services scheme from July,' he said, speaking at the Irish Pharmacy Union this morning.

'All women – regardless of means – should have access to emergency contraception through their pharmacy. This measure will ensure this,' he continued, according to the Journal.

The Irish Pharmacy Union welcomed the development, saying that it 'addresses a longstanding injustice and anomaly for these women who, up to now, had to go to their GP to get a prescription if they wished to get emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) on the medical card.'

'It is time sensitive and that its effectiveness diminishes between the time of unprotected sex and the time of taking it, emphasising both the importance of all women being able to readily access it and thus the value of the convenience and accessibility offered by community pharmacies.'

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A petition against the Sisters of Charity ownership over the new National Maternity Hospital has gathered over 91,000 signatures, and now a new poll has shown that the majority of Irish people are against the move. 

An RTÉ poll found that 86 per cent of people do not want the Catholic Church to have any role in maternity services in Ireland.

The survey was conducted for the Claire Byrne Live programme. 

The results come after protests had been staged outside the Department of Health against the Sisters of Charity involvement and a petition had since gone viral against their role.

'The Sisters of Charity is one of 18 residential institutions that is highlighted by the Ryan report 2009 to have been responsible for child abuse,' reads the petition manifesto.

'They still owe €3 million to the redress scheme for its survivors. The Sisters of Charity, along with three other religious congregations, were responsible for the management of Magdalene Laundries.'

'In 2013 they stated they would not be making ANY contributions to the State redress scheme to the women who had been subject abuse in the Magdalene Laundries.'

Minister for Health Simon Harris has attempted to reassure the public that there will be no Catholic influence on the health care provided to women at the new National Maternity Hospital. 

'The identity and ethos of the current NMH will be retained,' reads a statement from the Department of Health. 

'The new company will have clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services, without religious, ethnic or other distinction, as well as financial and budgetary independence.'

However, a further poll shows that only 23 per cent of people surveyed believe the Minister's reassurances. 

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According to emerging reports, the lifetime ban which prevented men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has been officially lifted.

It has been established that as of today any man who has had sex with another man in the last 12 months will be allowed to donate as long as they meet specific blood donor selection criteria.

Health Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the news and assured the public that he is confident in the services provided by the IBTS.

"In June of last year, I accepted the recommendations of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) to change their blood donation deferral policies for men who have sex with men," he explained.

"The IBTS provides a safe, reliable and robust blood service to the Irish health system and has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both donors and recipients of blood and blood products."

"Furthermore, the IBTS will continue to keep all deferral policies under active review in the light of scientific evidence, emerging infections and international experience."

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IBTS for its work over the past six months, which today sees these recommendations brought to fruition within the timescale agreed," he added.

Prior to blood donation, the IBTS tests all prospective blood donors for a number of diseases, including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

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Amanda Mellet has been awarded €30,000 in compensation from the Irish Government.

The payment is a result of an earlier United Nation's Human Rights Committee ruling which stated that she had faced "cruel, inhuman treatment" due to Ireland's abortion ban.

Amanda has also been offered counselling and other support services.

The ruling, which occurred in June this year, came after Amanda filed a complaint with the UN after she was forced to "travel" for a termination. 

Minister for Health Simon Harris offered the compensation in a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The meeting took place one week before an imposed deadline set out by the UN for Ireland to respond. 

In November 2011, Amanda learned that her foetus had congenital heart defects caused by a condition known as Edwards’ syndrome and that it would die in the uterus or shortly after birth.

After being told by her doctors of the serious genetic condition, Amanda was advised to either carry to full term or seek an abortion abroad.

She spent €3,000 on a termination in Liverpool.

Amanda complained that the State’s ban on abortion had violated her human rights under international law, and the United Nation's Human Rights Committee agreed.

"When I read the report from the UNHR Committee I found the experience she went through deeply upsetting," said the Minister for Health.

"Indeed, I have subsequently met with other families who have been through the trauma of knowing their baby will not survive and made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy abroad and I have been very moved on hearing of their experiences."

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Despite providing essential, often life-saving services within our health system, newly-qualified nurses in this country face low starting salaries and increasingly tough working-conditions.

Understandably, the Irish Nurses And Midwives Organisation is now desperately appealing to the government to improve pay, hours, staffing levels, and post graduate opportunities.

But while unions and politicians remain embattled, ordinary, hard-working nurses are struggling – sometimes desperately so.

Indeed, recently one nurse felt compelled to take to a Facebook page that offers support to those working in the industry.

In a powerfully penned post that has now garnered significant traction online, the unnamed mother makes her compelling argument for pay restoration – whereby the penalties inflicted on the public service sector by Troika-led austerity are eased or abolished.

The nurse has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect her husband and children; here is an extract from her post

I, like thousands of others, went to college for four years and got my nursing degree.

I got married to a tradesman. We got a mortgage for a three bedroomed house and we had two children. 

We could pay for our mortgage. We had one family holiday a year. We had two cars. Neither of us had new cars but the cars we bought got us to our jobs and back home again. 

We lived a normal life. Nothing fancy. But we got by. Then the banks and the government decided to gamble with our lives. My husband lost his job in the crash. 

And I was forced to take on all the bills including the mortgage. 

It was tough but I did OK. We sold my husband’s car for €3,000. We tightened our belts. 

Then the government decided to punish us even further for their mistakes. They introduced USC. Again we tightened our belts even further. My husband was getting the odd job here and there but his weekly wage was gone. We were struggling to get by.

Gone was the yearly holiday. Gone were the day trips away. Gone was the monthly night out for the two of us.

As if that wasn't enough punishment the government decided that because I'm a nurse, I must pay PRD (Pension Related Deduction). A tax that was only to be introduced as an emergency tax but for some reason we are still being forced to pay. 

We were already at rock bottom… but that destroyed us. Santa suddenly hadn't got a lot of money. Toys were second hand from charity shops. Food was bargain basement end of life food. And our mortgage? I just can't pay it any longer.

I try to pay some money off it but the money that I used to pay for the mortgage is now going to pay USC and PRD. Anything I have left is going on paying for heating, electricity and the kids’ food and schooling. Our heating is one fire in the sitting room and hot water bottles. 

And now the banks have decided that they're going to take our home. They're going to leave us homeless. I've tried to talk to them but they don't want to know. 

I've tried to come to a deal with them to pay off as much as I can but it isn't good enough. They are completely heartless. They want the house. 

We are now going through the repossession courts desperately trying to save the last thing we have left, our little family home. 

I'm used to being verbally and physically abused in my job. I'll never get used to the ward being constantly short staffed and always overcrowded though. Every working day is a nightmare but it's not as tough as constantly going hungry everyday and coming home to see my husband a shadow of his former self.

We were once just a normal couple going about our simple lives and now we are a very broken couple who are desperately trying to save the last thing we have left, the roof over our heads. 

And has our government even tried to help us save our home? Not at all. In fact they haven't even tried to stop the courts from taking our home at all and yet they are responsible for our home being taken from us.  

Have they tried to restore our pay? No. Instead they are trying to lay the blame at our feet that if they restore any of our pay that we will put this country into another recession. How dare they.

They talk about recovery non stop. What recovery? The only ones I see in recovery are the banks and all the self serving politicians! 

Not one of them have tried to help us and yet they're happy enough to hand themselves pay rises of €5,000 each. They make me want to vomit. None of them care. Not one of them. 

I'm a nurse. I'm no longer a proud nurse. I'm well and truly broken and I don't think I'll ever live a normal life again. 

I'm in tears writing this. My heart is just broken. We can't take much more. 

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