It's a Yes: Historic abortion referendum set to pass overwhelmingly by almost 70:30
- Exit polls point to landslide vote in favour of repeal of the Eighth
- A huge gulf in views held by Ireland's youngest and oldest generations
- Dublin had the highest Yes vote of around 78pc
A MASSIVE moment in Ireland's social history is set to emerge today with the Yes vote expected to pass overwhelmingly in the abortion referendum.
The country is on course to legalise abortion after a huge number of young people turned out to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The eyes of the world's media are on the country after exit polls predicted a landslide Yes victory in the referendum.
Exit polls predict the Yes vote passed comprehensively in urban and rural areas alike with the result expected to be in the region of 69.4pc to 30.6pc.
As expected, Dublin carried the strongest repeal vote at 79pc. In Leinster the Yes vote is expected to be 67.2pc. Munster came in at 66.3pc. Even the normally conservative Connacht/Ulster voted 62pc in favour.
One of the biggest stories emerging from referendum day is the enormous numbers of young people who turned out to vote.
However, many of those over 65 also voted for change.
More than 72pc of women were in favour and 66pc of men, according to an exit poll carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes for RTÉ.
Around two million people cast their vote.
Late last night, Health Minister Simon Harris told Independent.ie: "It looks like we could be on the cusp of a historic day where our country can enact laws that are a bit more compassionate for our women."
Counting does not begin until 9am Saturday, with a formal result not due until later in the day, but the data suggests Ireland is on the cusp of a defining moment in its social history.
Reacting to the exit polls, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a vocal proponent of liberalisation, tweeted: "Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It's looking like we will make history tomorrow."
Meanwhile prominent No campaigner Cora Sherlock expressed disappointment at the polls.
"Exit polls, if accurate, paint a very sad state of affairs tonight," she tweeted late on Friday.
"But those who voted No should take heart. Abortion on demand would deal Ireland a tragic blow but the pro-life movement will rise to any challenge it faces. Let's go into tomorrow with this in mind. #8thref"
Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas travelled home in droves to exercise their democratic right on the emotive issue.
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%
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.
Here are some of the trends that have appeared from polls carried out for the Irish Times and RTE:
- 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 90% 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 70%.
But according to the polls, rural areas also voted Yes, with around 60 to 63% 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 (66%) backed liberalisation, with a similar figure in Munster.
In Connacht/Ulster, the figure was slightly lower at around 61%.
More to follow