The Irish Supreme Court has lifted a five-year ban restraining student unions from distributing abortion information.
The lifting of the ban has been welcomed by union leaders who said that it vindicated the stand they had taken for years.
An injunction was granted in 1992 by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children against the Union of Students in Ireland and the student unions in Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.
Since then a referendum has been carried which allows information on abortion to be made available. However, the unions were warned that they would still have to keep within the law. If their activities violated the provisions of legislation they could be prosecuted or restrained by injunction.
One of the five judges criticised successive governments for failing to introduce abortion legislation. "It is not the function of this court to supplement this government and legislative inertia by the making of orders so uncertain and fraught with difficulty," said Mr Justice Ronan Keane.
Governments have ducked the issue since the famous X-case in 1992, in which a 14-year-old was initially restrained and then allowed by the courts to leave the country to have an abortion.
Every year about one in ten Irish pregnancies is terminated in British clinics. Politicians had hoped to keep the issue off the political agenda until after the imminent general election.