Updated | Irish anti-abortion campaign concedes defeat, as exit polls show clear pro-choice win

Exit polls by The Irish Times and RTÉ indicates that around 69% of voters in a referendum in Ireland have voted to repeal a constitutional ban on abortion, as anti-abortion campaign concedes defeat

Ireland has voted to repeal the country's constitutional ban on abortion
Ireland has voted to repeal the country's constitutional ban on abortion

Updated with Malta's Women's Rights Foundation reaction

Polls carried out by The Irish Times and RTÉ suggest that around 69% of voters in Ireland have voted to repeal part of the constitution which effectively prohibits abortion. 

The official counting of votes started at 9am IST (10am CET), with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, a pro-choicer who is in favour of the changes, saying on Twitter that it looked like Ireland was going to "make history".

Some time after vote-counting started, Savethe8th, the group which led the campaign against abortion, appeared to effectively concede that they had lost, saying on their website that Irish voters had brought about a “a tragedy of historic proportions”.

If the exit poll is confirmed, Malta will be the only EU country to have a complete ban on abortion. The Women's Rights Foundation, a Maltese non-governmental organisation that has supported the Irish Yes vote, said on Twitter than the expected referendum results marked a day when “women around the world can rejoice.”

Irish women had been successful “Against all odds… Against the culture so similar to Maltese culture, that demeans them, mistrusts them, doubts them,” the Foundation said.

With a turnout of 70%, the RTÉ exit poll showed 69% had voted Yes, and 30% No, marking a two-thirds majority in favour of removing the constitutional prohibition of abortion.

The Irish Times' exit poll results, issued previously, gave the Yes vote a margin of victory nobody had been predicting. The exit poll showed 68% voted Yes and 32% voted No. An analysis of the poll shows support for a change in abortion laws cuts across the country.

An Ireland doing away with taboos

Abortion in Ireland had, between 1861 and 2013, been punishable by life imprisonment, but since 2013, this was reduced to 14 years of detention. It will now be legalised, following what appears to be a landslide victory for the “Yes” campaign, pushing the country to break one of its last remaining taboos.

In 1995, divorce was approved in Ireland by a tiny majority of 50.3%, suggesting a time when the Church had significant more influence than it has now.

Twenty years later, in 2015, the Irish voted in favour of same-sex marriage by 62.07%.

And this referendum will now see abortion being legalised, with a majority of around 69% voting in favour.

The Eight Amendment to the Constitution, banning abortion, had come into effect in 1983, after a referendum in which 66.9% voted in favour of it being passed.

Since then, decades of scandals plagues the Church - which refrained from being very vocal on the abortion issue in the months leading to the referendum - and it gradually started losing some of its strong grip on the people. Around 87% of Irish people still identify as Catholics, but church attendance has dropped, and far less young people join the clergy.

The referendum asked Irish voters whether they agreed with repealing the Eighth Amendment, but it was also held against the backdrop of a proposed law to introduce unrestricted abortion upto 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Thousands of Irish women every year cross the channel to have an abortion in the UK.


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