Labour Party delegates have called for a referendum allowing abortion and repealing the eighth amendment to the Constitution providing for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

A motion from Labour Women also advocated that the commitment be included in any program negotiated by the party if it is returned to government after the next election.

Delegates at the party’s annual conference in Killarney heard Labour Women chairperson Sinead Ahern argue that the eighth amendment should be replaced by legislation allowing for abortion in cases of a threat to a woman’s life or serious threat to her health. New legislation should also allow for abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape and incest posing a threat to the woman’s mental health.

Separately, Labour is likely to also seek a reversal of a decision it reached along with its senior partner in government, Fine Gael, to abolish town councils.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, speaking at an event on the fringes of the Labour Party conference, said the decision which accounted for a huge decrease in the number of councilors was one of his biggest regrets of the coalition’s term of office.

He said it was wrong and should be reversed. The restoration of local democracy and town councils should be included in Labour’s election manifesto.

The abolition of town councils, which came into effect following last year’s local elections, was spearheaded by former Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, who championed the move as the biggest shake-up of local government in the history of the State.

The abolition of all 80 town councils, which had been in existence for 115 years, accounted for the massive reduction in councilors after last year’s local elections, down from 1,627 to 949.

They were replaced by new entities, municipal district councils, which are much larger, encompassing both urban and rural areas.