'By any standard, an extraordinary day for the women of Ireland'
There was a surge in compassion for women as Ireland listened - and voted
Five years ago, Dr Rhona Mahony, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital, emerged from an Oireachtas committee having made her first public foray into the abortion debate.
"I remember coming outside the chamber and three of the guys pinning me to the wall and telling me what I should be thinking and [TD] Mary Mitchell O'Connor shooing them down the corridor," said Dr Mahony yesterday.
This probably won't be the last time she will be buttoned-holed by men in Leinster House. But yesterday's gut-punching declaration by the Irish people means that next time it won't be about repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Apart from sheer surprise, the overwhelming reaction flooding in yesterday was that the people's declaration amounted to a surge of compassion for sisters, mothers, daughters and for women. The heroes were the women who told their stories. And, although painful, Ireland listened.
"I think it is a very emotional day for all the women who have travelled, and who have taken tablets and who have been excluded from our health service. It is quite an overwhelming acceptance and endorsement of what they have gone through. It is, by any standard, an extraordinary day," she said.
"At the heart of this, is something extraordinarily difficult. There is loss at the heart of this and great stress," said Dr Mahony. "We can have as much philosophy, ideology, religion or whatever. But at the end of the day, we are left with dealing with real life and as a country we have really engaged with this and really discussed it."
Like others, she paid tribute to women who told their stories but not only those women. "I know that lots of stories were told not on camera, but at kitchen tables, over glasses of wine and cups of coffee."
Mary Lou McDonald agreed. Once the cheers that greeted her entry to the RDS died down, the Sinn Fein leader declared: "For every family who stepped forward and told their stories, because that's what changed this campaign and that is what won the Yes vote."
She added: "This was about human experience. This is about people's lives and their families."
Joan Burton, the Labour Party leader, singled out the men in doorways who told her terrible stories of joyful pregnancies marred by fatal foetal abnormality and of enforced trips abroad. She spoke about the families sharing stories amongst themselves, that previously only mothers or perhaps sisters were privy to.
"I think as the knowledge grew, people's natural compassion grew and that translated into a Yes vote."
The three women who headed the Together4Yes campaign, Ailbhe Smyth, Orla O'Connor, of the National Women's Council, and Grainne Griffin, had put women's real lives front and centre of their campaign. The response was a "resounding roar from the Irish people" to repeal the Eighth, said co-director Orla O'Connor.
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%
"We can't forget that even as these votes are being counted there are probably women returning from Liverpool after having had an abortion, or are at home after having taken an abortion pill. These stories were a central tenet of our campaign and we will be forever indebted to those women and couples whose own bravery and dignity have moved hearts and changed minds - and given the scale of the victory, changed the country," she said.
Never again. Ailbhe Smyth said it was a vote for "dignity and decency", a moment of "profound change when Ireland collectively stood up for women and for their healthcare and voted for constitutional change".
For TD Ruth Coppinger, young women - the millennials often disparaged as 'snowflakes' - carried the day. They were the ones who said enough was enough and "refused to go along with the hypocrisy of the Irish solution to an Irish problem", forcing change on "a petrified and reluctant political establishment".
The establishment wanted change. too.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed the "quiet revolution". Minister for Health Simon Harris yesterday assured women in crisis pregnancies that Ireland will stand with them.
Micheal Martin, the Fianna Fail leader who faced such dissent within his own party, said the issue was "genuinely about the women of Ireland".
His party colleagues Michael McGrath and Dara Calleary, who were among the Fianna Fail TDs who voted No, indicated they would not stand in the way of legislation.
Mattie McGrath, the Independent TD, a prominent No campaigner, promised he would not obstruct legislation either. "The people have spoken and we have to listen to that," said the Tipperary TD.
Yesterday, a historic day, was a resounding acknowledgement of real life and offered the promise of a better life for women such as Amy Walsh, whose baby daughter Rose was stillborn at Liverpool Women's Hospital.
As support for Yes escalated, Amy, a member of the Termination For Medical Reasons, told reporters yesterday: "If felt like it was the first time I could breathe since I got my diagnosis that I lost my daughter. I think we all felt like that."
She said: "It was just such a relief that we now know that other women and couples who receive this news, that the worst news is going to be that they are losing their baby, but they will be looked after compassionately surrounded by their family and their loved ones at home."