A quiet revolution, a youth-quake, a gender-quake... Emphatic Yes vote reflects a changed Ireland
- With 30 of the 40 constituencies counted, the Yes vote stands at 68.3pc
- Asked when they decided how to vote, 75pc said they 'always knew'
- The only age cohort to vote No were those aged 65 and over
- Asked what factors influenced their vote, 43pc cited people's personal stories in media
- FF is only major party whose voters rejected referendum
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that the landside 'Yes' vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment is the "culmination of a quiet revolution that has taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades".
Mr Varadkar said: "The public have spoken. The result appears to be resounding in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
"It’s possible even that we could carry every constituency in the country," he added.
Mr Varadkar said that men and women, almost every age group, and every social class have voted 'Yes' to repeal.
He said:"that demonstrates to me that we are a country that is not divided but a country that is united, a country that says that we respect women, that we trust women and that we support them in the choices and decisions they make."
Mr Varadkar was speaking as he arrived at the count centre in Citywest, Dublin this lunchtime.
The final tally of his own constituency, Dublin West, showed a 'Yes' vote of almost 74pc in favour of liberalising Ireland's abortion laws.
On a wider scale, Ireland is set to repeal the controversial Eighth Amendment in a landslide vote, as the wind of social change that has swept over the country in recent years turns into a gale.
With 30 of the 40 constituencies counted, the Yes vote stands at 68.3pc
If confirmed in the official result later today, the suggested margin of victory for campaigners to liberalise the abortion regime represents a seismic shift in attitude in little over a generation.
The contentious Eighth Amendment that effectively bans terminations - a constitutional provision now destined for the history books - was voted into the state's legal framework in 1983.
It is remarkable that the winning margin for anti-abortion activists 35 years ago - 67pc to 33pc - appears to have been turned on its head on Friday, and then some.
Constituencies with the strongest Yes/No vote
The table below shows the top five constituencies with the strongest vote for or against repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Dublin Bay South 78.49% 21.51%
Dún Laoghaire 77.06% 22.94%
Dublin Fingal 76.96% 23.04%
Dublin Central 76.51% 23.49%
Dublin Rathdown 76.10% 23.90%
Donegal 48.13% 51.87%
Also of significant interest is the answers given when voters were asked how they decided to vote on Friday.
Some 75pc said they always knew; 8pc said following the Savita Halappanavar case; 1pc said following the Citizens' Assembly; 1pc said following the Oireacthas committee; and 12pc said during the Referendum campaign.
And it seems that very few changed their minds - the exit poll also showed that the vast majority of voters had not changed their minds over the last five years, or during the campaign itself.
Ailbhe Smyth of the Together For Yes campaign said: "This is a vote for dignity and decency. If exit polls are reflected in the official vote count later today, this will be a moment of profound change in Ireland’s social history, a moment when the nation collectively stood up for women and for their healthcare, and voted for constitutional change."
Simon Harris also reacted to the anticipated result: "I think the people of Ireland have voted with compassion to the fore of their mind, I'm so humbled to be their Health Minster today.
"We have faced up to reality that women are leaving our country every day to access terminations.
"As long as it remained in our constitution we were saying to woman 'take the plane of take the boat', now we're saying 'take our hand'."
Solidarity TD Paul Murphy has said today’s expected result is because of a “youth-quake” and a “gender-quake”. The Dublin South-West TD said the victory was been driven by young people and women.
The likely result will be delivered three years after the country voted to legalise same-sex marriage - another landmark moment in Ireland's tectonic drift from "social conservatism" to "progressive liberalism".
While the margin in 2015 was emphatic - 62pc to 38pc - the Yes vote in 2018 looks like being even larger. Counting began at 9am on Saturday morning, with a final result predicted for sometime this afternoon.
But the RTE exit poll suggests 70pc of citizens voted to ditch an amendment that was so resoundingly endorsed by the public three-and-a-half decades earlier.
The dramatic reversal in opinion seems to have been driven by the younger generations.
People under the age of 53 would not have had the chance to vote in 1983.
In this year's referendum the support of those age groups for reform seems to have been overwhelming.
Almost 90pc of voters under 25 appear to have voted Yes.
Those aged 35-49 endorsed repeal by around 73pc, the exit polls indicate.
The only age group to vote No was the over-65s, indicating that those who backed the amendment in 1983 largely retain their opposition to abortion - they are now just outnumbered by younger generations committed to reform.
The diminishing role of the Catholic Church in the social fabric of Ireland is undoubtedly a factor in the changes being wrought.
It has called for a No vote, arguing that the life of the unborn should be sacrosanct.
Damaged by a welter of child abuse scandals in recent decades, during the abortion referendum campaign the church was reduced to just one voice among many in the campaign, rather than the all-powerful institution of authority it once was.
Just one in eight cited religion as a significant factor in deciding their vote.
And the Yes camp, which portrayed itself as modernising and in step with international opinion, insisted repeal would demonstrate Ireland's compassion for thousands of Irish women forced to travel to England for the procedure.
A decade after the Eighth Amendment was approved, women in Ireland were officially given the right to travel abroad, mostly to the UK, to obtain terminations. Pro-repeal campaigners say almost 170,000 have done so.
The liberalisation campaign gathered momentum in 2012 after an Indian dentist, Savita Halappanavar, died in hospital in Galway aged 31 when she was refused an abortion during a miscarriage.
Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, said she repeatedly asked for a termination but was refused because there was a foetal heartbeat.
In 2013, following an outcry over Mrs Halappanavar's death, legislation was amended to allow terminations under certain tightly restricted circumstances.
When doctors felt a woman's life was at risk due to complications from the pregnancy, or from suicide, they were permitted to carry out an abortion.
That did not sate the demand of pro-choice advocates.
Under pressure from the UN about alleged degrading treatment of women who travelled to England for terminations, the Government began exploring the possibility of further reform, culminating in the calling of Friday's referendum and the promise to legislate.
Mr Varadkar said today the government has been given a mandate to legislate for abortion and that the plan is to have a new law enacted by the end of the year.
The government's proposal is to allow abortions without restriction as to the reason up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
Terminations would only be allowed after that in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or where the life or health of the mother is at risk.
Mr Varadkar said getting the legislation passed is "not as straightforward as it may seem.
"We have to get into the detail. There’s always the risk of legal challenges and of course it has to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas, the Dáil and Seanad."
But he added: "the fact that the result is so clear, that it is more than 2:1 in favour I think means it will make it much easier to get the legislation through the Dáil and Seanad than we might have thought a couple of days ago."
Mr Varadkar also said: "I’ve heard already a number of ‘No’ campaigners, people who honestly and decently opposed this referendum for their own reasons now saying that they accept the will of the people and will allow the legislation to pass.
"People really have given us the mandate that we asked for and the mandate that we needed to make this change.
"Today we have at long last a modern constitution for a modern country."
RTE's exit poll was carried out in conjunction with a number of Irish universities and was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes, while the Irish Times also published an exit poll in today's newspaper.
Both contain some further significant insights into the reasons behind the overwhelming Yes - a insight into a potentially 'new' Ireland.
Some standout information from the exit polls includes
- Young versus old
The polling data suggests a huge gulf in views held by Ireland's youngest and oldest generations.
Both exit surveys recorded support for the Yes camp at approaching 90pc among 18 to 24-year-olds.
By contrast, the over-65 group was the only age bracket to vote No, with around 60% wanting to retain the Eighth Amendment.
- Urban versus rural
As predicted, urban areas appear to have been more strongly in favour of repeal, at just over 70pc
But according to the polls, rural areas also voted Yes, with around 60 to 63pc in favour.
- Region by region
In keeping with the urban/rural trend, Dublin had the highest Yes vote of around 78%.
In Leinster, just under two-thirds of voters (66pc) backed liberalisation, with a similar figure in Munster.
In Connacht/Ulster, the figure was slightly lower at around 61pc
- Party politics
The only major party whose voters rejected the referendum was Fianna Fáil,
Fianna Fail had 50.3pc No voters and 49.7pc Yes.
In contrast, almost 75pc of both Fine Gael and Sinn Fein voters said Yes
- Factors influencing the vote
Some 43pc said people's personal stories as covered in the media;
Just 10pc said campaign posters and 7pc direct contact with campaigners
- Important factors for your vote
Almost two in three cited women's right to choose
Just 12pc looked to religious views
John McGuirk of the Save the 8th campaign said that abortion remains wrong.
“The 8th amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child – it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed, and will always exist," he said.
"What Irish voters did yesterday is a tragedy of historic proportions. However, a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it."
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae, who was advocating for a No vote, said he did so because of very firmly held beliefs.
Speaking on RTE Radio One, Mr Healy-Rae said: "I'm even taken with the massive amount of people that voted Yes."
He added: "We live in a democracy, people voted as they did, now it's over to the legislators."
The Kerry TD said parliamentarians would now have to debate the draft legislation.
"The will of the people has spoken and that's it," he said.
Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas travelled home in droves to exercise their democratic right on the emotive issue.
The vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the state's constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is in danger.
The specific question people were asked was whether they wanted to see the Eighth Amendment replaced with wording in the constitution that would hand politicians the responsibility to set future laws on abortion, unhindered by constitutional strictures.
If the Yes vote is confirmed, the Government intends to legislate by the end of the year to make it relatively easy for a woman to obtain the procedure in early pregnancy.
Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.