Sunday 22 September 2019

Final Results

Repeal the Eighth Amendment?

Yes 66.40% 1,429,981

No 33.60% 723,632

  • Constituencies declared: 40/40

Referendum Hub

Journey to historic point lasted 35 years and five votes

Emer Lorenz votes at Drumcondra National School, Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Emer Lorenz votes at Drumcondra National School, Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

This is the fourth time in 35 years that we were asked to vote on abortion. In the last three referendums, we were asked a total of five questions - with mixed results. Many people forget the 2002 poll which took place under Bertie Ahern.

It arose from the notorious 'X-Case', which had convulsed the nation in 1992. It is remembered by some as a retrograde move, since it included a proposal to remove a threat of suicide as grounds for permitting an abortion due to a risk to the mother's life.

Fine Gael and Labour in Opposition opposed that referendum. On the day, turnout was poor at 43pc, and bad weather in the western half of the country, set against a dry day in Dublin, was seen as a factor in the outcome. It was defeated by 0.8pc, or just 10,000 votes.

The previous referendum, in November 1992, had put three propositions to the voters: should Ireland guarantee the right to abortion information; should it afford the right to travel for an abortion; should it restrict the grounds for abortion, removing the danger of suicide as a threat to the mother's life.

This one was very fraught, caused by the heart-rending case of 14-year-old girl, pregnant as a result of rape, who was prevented from leaving the country to have an abortion. A legal appeal on behalf of the girl, known as 'X', led to the Supreme Court ruling that the mother's life had to take precedence in cases such as this, and that the mother's life was at risk due to threat of suicide.

Later that same year, voters upheld the right to travel outside the jurisdiction for an abortion and to get abortion information. A third amendment, which would have removed suicide as grounds for allowing abortion, was defeated.

Turnout that day, in November 1992, was 68.2pc. But it was boosted because the referendum was held the same day as a general election. It took over 20 years to get some clarity on the issue via legislation.

And before that there was the vote on the Eighth Amendment in 1983. While abortion had always been illegal, it was not cited in the Constitution until then. On the day, just 54pc of the people turned out to vote. The prohibition was carried by a vote of 2:1.

Irish Independent

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