picture of a couple being advised on free IVF in Ireland

Groundbreaking Free IVF Funding Plan Announced for Irish Couples

The Irish Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has announced that eligible couples will receive full public funding for a cycle of free IVF in Ireland starting this September 2023. This marks the first time IVF (Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR)) treatment receives public funding in the state.

Minister Donnelly explained, during his appearance on RTÉ’s News at One, that many couples have previously been excluded from accessing IVF and fertility treatments due to prohibitive costs. The new scheme will fully fund three cycles of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and one cycle of IVF for qualifying couples.

This remarkable decision follows the allocation of €10 million in the budget specifically for IVF funding. However, the initiative includes age limits: up to 41 years for women and up to 60 years for men. These recommendations emerged from an expert group and align with practices in the NHS in the UK and many parts of Europe. The aim is to allocate resources where the chances of success are the highest.


Eligible individuals must ordinarily reside in Ireland and be referred through their GP to a regional fertility hub to avail of the free IVF. Further requirements are that couples should not have any living children from their existing relationship, and at least one partner should not have a living child. Publicly-funded IVF treatment is accessible for those who have undergone a maximum of one previous IVF cycle, and all embryos created during that IVF cycle should have been used.

The scheme excludes those who have undergone voluntary sterilisation. Further eligibility requirements include a maximum age of 40 years and 364 days for women and 59 years and 364 days for men at the time of referral to a fertility hub. The intending birth mother’s BMI must fall within the range of 18.5 kg/m2 – 30.0 kg/m2.

Minister Donnelly explained that the initiative is a “first step,” aiming to offer the greatest possible opportunity to the largest number of people based on the available resources for IVF.


The first national HSE fertility centre, due to open in Cork next year, is expected to handle about 500 Free IVF cycles. The initiative is targeted at those who previously had no access to IVF or have had one cycle. The expert group recommends beginning with this group.

The plan includes a referral pathway. Patients will begin their journey with their GP, who can provide counselling, baseline investigations, and lifestyle advice. GPs can then refer patients to one of six regional fertility hubs. These hubs, established over the last two years, are estimated to be able to assist 50-70% of referred patients.

Patients can choose from either the HSE centre in Cork or one of the private providers. The service will initially be provided by private clinics on behalf of the HSE. In parallel, the HSE is building up a network of public capacity to deliver the service directly within the public health system.

Clinical Director of the HSE National Women and Infants Health Programme, Dr Clíona Murphy, described the roll-out of free IVF services in Ireland as “important” and “very exciting.”


Despite the general welcome, the free IVF scheme has attracted criticism from LGBT Ireland, Irish Gay Dads, and Equality for Children for its exclusion of families who use a donor. The groups called the scheme “disappointing” and “deeply unfair.”

They argued that the state requires female same-sex couples to undergo clinical conception to be jointly recognised as parents under the current provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act (2015), but refuses to fund these procedures under the new IVF/IUI funding scheme.

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh said that once the legislation is in place, free IVF is likely to be extended to include gametes, donor eggs, and donor sperm.

Evaluating whether a woman is eligible for a free round of IVF in a new State scheme based on her age and body-mass index are “rather crude cut-off criteria,” says Labour Senator Marie Sherlock.



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