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The power of women

People vote 67-33 in favour of right to choose

New abortion laws to be enacted by end of year

Taoiseach hails 'quiet revolution' across Ireland

Powerful personal testimony prompts landslide


Crowds at Dublin Castle yesterday at the announcement of the referendum result. Picture: Mark Condren

Crowds at Dublin Castle yesterday at the announcement of the referendum result. Picture: Mark Condren

Crowds at Dublin Castle yesterday at the announcement of the referendum result. Picture: Mark Condren

Ireland has decided by a massive majority to repeal the Eighth Amendment, at once ending a long divisive debate about the availability of abortion services and ushering in a new era of a woman's right to choose.

In a seismic outcome to a contentious referendum, people across the country have voted in record numbers and at an unforeseen scale to remove the controversial constitutional amendment which recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.

The Government will now introduce legislation which will, among other measures, allow for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without specific indication.

As the scale of the referendum result - Yes 66.4pc to No 33.6pc - became apparent several politicians who opposed the proposal immediately announced they would not oppose the will of the people and would now support the new Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the astonishing poll result a "quiet revolution" and promised the new legislation would be enacted before the end of the year.

The Taoiseach described the result as: "The day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light.

"Today, we have a modern Constitution for a modern people."

The emotional victory for women's rights was celebrated the length and breadth of the country as it became clear voters were strongly influenced by the personal stories of those affected by the Eighth Amendment.

An RTE exit poll confirmed the powerful personal testimonies of women who bravely spoke out during the campaign was one of the most influential factors in securing a Yes vote.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who spearheaded the Government's campaign, said he would seek permission at this Tuesday's Cabinet meeting to immediately begin legislating for abortion.

During emotional scenes at the referendum count centre in Dublin's RDS, Mr Harris said: "Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis pregnancy have been told take the plane, take the boat... today we tell them, take our hand."

The father of the late Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused a termination, said Irish voters had done justice to his family, and said the new abortion legislation should be called after his daughter.

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"We are really, really happy. We have one last request, that the new law, that it is called 'Savita's law'. It should be named for her," Andanappa Yalagi said.

By yesterday afternoon, thousands of Yes voters had gathered in Dublin Castle to celebrate a resounding victory where supporters openly wept with joy and hugged as the official results were announced.

The revolution was evident from the moment the ballot boxes were opened in urban areas such as Dublin where more than 70pc voted Yes, to traditionally so-called more conservative constituencies in Connacht/Ulster and Munster, who also supported repeal by a comfortable majority.

The stunning scale of the decision was evident among women first and foremost, but also men and across the generational divide, with majorities aged in their 50s and 60s also saying Yes in overwhelming numbers.

Only those over the age of 65 voted against repealing the Eighth Amendment, and Donegal was the only constituency in the country to vote No, where 51.9pc voted against the referendum.

Even Roscommon, which was the only county to oppose gay marriage, backed the national trend this time - some 57pc supported repealing the Eighth.

The predicted rural-urban divide in the run-up to the referendum, which led to fears that a strong majority in the East would be counterbalanced by opposition from the West, did not happen.

Not only did the major towns and cities vote emphatically Yes but mainly rural constituencies also voted to repeal by significant majorities.

While support was strongest in key urban areas, especially Dublin, it was clear from early yesterday morning that rural voters were happy to bring about a sea-change to Ireland's abortion laws.

The result in constituencies in Connacht/Ulster was the big surprise.

Galway East, where many predicted a No vote, was the first constituency to return a result, a resounding 60.2pc Yes win.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the referendum result showed "there isn't two Irelands - Dublin and the rest" when it comes to giving women the choice to decide.

"What we have seen, particularly in the last 10 days, is a huge amount of undecided people wanting reassurance and who could no longer accept the status quo."

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the huge margin for Yes in the referendum means Mr Harris will be "immeasurably strengthened" when it comes to putting enabling legislation through the Dail and Seanad.

"He displayed extraordinary leadership on this issue. He set targets and a timetable - and every single aspect of it was met," Ms Zappone said.

Ms Zappone also welcomed signals from Fianna Fail TDs who backed the No side in the referendum that they will not now oppose the upcoming legislation.

"I am really pleased to see my Fianna Fail colleagues respecting the will of the people,'' she said.

Earlier in the day, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he had been assured by pro-life TDs in his party that they would not seek to block the new abortion legislation.

Senior Fianna Fail TDs, including deputy leader Dara Calleary and prominent No campaigner Mary Butler, committed to allow the new law pass through the Dail.

However, other No campaigners said they would seek to prevent the "worst excesses" of the Government's proposed abortion regime.

The Save the Eighth campaign described the referendum result as a "tragedy of historic proportions" while pro-life campaigner Cora Sherlock said it was "an extremely bad day for Ireland".

Senator Ronan Mullen said he would work "to try and curb the worst excesses of what the government is proposing".

He said that there was a new generation of young people in the pro-life movement who would work on rebuilding a culture in Ireland "where the need to protect the unborn becomes the most popular, widely-held view again".

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