Ireland decides: Yes side upbeat but remains wary of silent No vote in abortion referendum
- Abortion referendum polling from 7am to 10pm
- 3.2 million people can have a say in divisive vote
- Yes side taking ‘nothing for granted’ – Taoiseach
A silent No vote is the only thing that can derail attempts to repeal the Eighth Amendment as the country goes to the polls.
Yes campaigners were last night confident they have won over enough support to secure victory in today's divisive vote.
But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said they are "taking absolutely nothing for granted".
More than 3.2 million people are entitled to make their voices heard on arguably the most contentious social issue in Ireland, as the polls open at 7am.
The country is being asked to make a "once-in-a-generation" decision as senior political figures have categorically ruled out a rerun if the proposal to allow the Oireachtas legislate for abortion is rejected.
The weather is not expected to affect the turnout. Met Éireann predicts a largely sunny day across the whole country, with just a few showers.
In the region of 120,000 people have added their name to the supplementary voting register in recent weeks and thousands have travelled home from abroad to cast their votes.
Health Minister Simon Harris told the Irish Independent: "This is the moment so many people have waited so long for. It is an opportunity to face reality and to support women here in our own country."
- Read more: 'What are the facts?' and 'What does Repeal mean?': What people are Googling ahead of the Abortion Referendum
But Savethe8th's John McGuirk said people must decide "whether or not we're going to have a liberal abortion regime in Ireland".
"The fear of a lot of people on the No side of the campaign is that every time you take the step we are being asked to take, you change the culture of the country," he said.
Mr McGuirk said the key to a No victory will be older voters.
"Whether they vote in large enough numbers to help us win the referendum is an open question," he said.
At the same time he admitted some people who might be viewed as conservative on this issue will vote to repeal the Eighth as a "screw you" to the Catholic Church.
The question being asked of voters is whether they want to repeal a section of the Constitution that gives equal rights to mother and her unborn child.
A Yes vote result will clear the way for the Government to bring forward legislation that permits terminations up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
Mr Harris has promised that abortions will only be granted after the first trimester if there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health of, a pregnant woman.
As campaigning drew to a close Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, who is part of the Love Both group, reiterated her belief that the Government has "cynically used the tragedies of certain people to push through the most extreme abortion law ever proposed in this country by any Irish".
More than 2,000 people living off the coasts of Galway, Mayo and Donegal had their opportunity to vote yesterday.
The islands vote a day early in order to allow ballot boxes to make it back to the mainland for tomorrow's count.
- Read more: Floating Voter debates the Eighth with McGuirk and Noone - 'Young men could rebel against Yes'
Gardaí were last night escorting boxes to local court offices in each constituency. They were due to be transferred to individual count centres in the early hours of this morning, before polls opened at 7am.
Mr Varadkar said if there is a Yes vote, Ireland "will still be the same country as it is today".
"Of course we know when it comes to referendums in the past, like the divorce referendum, that went down to less than 10,000 votes, one ballot paper in every ballot box. We urge everyone to vote and vote Yes," he said.
"Opinion polls have been wrong before. I am conscious that in 1983 there was only a turnout of 55pc, most people decided to sit out and I hope that won't happen on this occasion and I am really encouraging everyone to come out and vote."