Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today hailed Ireland’s “resounding” yes
By Bernard Purcell
Opponents to removing Ireland’s Constitution’s absolute ban on abortion conceded defeat today after voters across the country gave a landslide victory to the Repeal the Eighth campaign.
John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group said the decisive result was a “tragedy of historic proportions” but that he accepted the result. He claimed many Irish citizens will not recognise the country they are waking up in.
“You can still passionately believe that the decision of the people is wrong, as I happen to do, and accept it. I don’t think you’ll find many people on our side of the referendum who don’t accept the result. That would be wrong.”
Another anti-repeal leader Cora Sherlock said the results “paint a very sad state of affairs.”
“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,” she said
But one of the originators of the Repeal campaigner Ailbhe Smyth, who has assiduously worked at it as a grassroots campaign for the past few years, said: “We are truly stunned and deeply relieved.
“It is this huge recognition of women, that women absolutely matter.”
Exit polls by The Irish Times and RTÉ television suggested that people throughput the country had overwhelmingly rejected the 1983 amendment which gave an unborn child or foetus the same legal rights as the mother.
The Ipsos/MRBI by The Irish Times indicated a vote of 68 per cent to 32 per cent for repeal which recognises the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child.
The RTÉ poll predicted a larger majority of 69 per cent to 31 per cent. It predicted the “Yes” vote in urban areas to be about 72 per cent, with rural support at about 63 per cent.
It suggested 72 per cent of women voted “Yes” along with about 66 per cent of men.
A record 3.3 million people registered, the largest number ever to register for a vote in Ireland – more than a hundred thousand voters enrolled on the supplementary register since February alone.
The government proposes to allow abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with later terminations allowed in some cases.
The Irish Family Planning Association called for quick action to implement the results.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today hailed Ireland’s “resounding” yes to his government’s call to ease restrictions on abortion.
He said the result was “the culmination of a quiet revolution” over the last couple of decades.
“What we have seen today is a culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland ” – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pic.twitter.com/sPxnsVWEA7
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) May 26, 2018
“The people have said that we want a modern constitution for a modern country, that we trust women and we respect them to make the right decision and the right choices about their healthcare.”
He said a new abortion law, allowing unrestricted access up to twelve weeks, would be enacted before the end of this year. Terminations will be allowed up to the 24th week but only in exceptional circumstances of threat to the welfare of the mother.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, who went against the grain of many of his own party TDs who were opposed to reform, predicted earlier this month that if the Eighth was repealed many of those TDs originally opposed would now support the government’s new legislation.
Mr Martin’s party is keeping Leo Varadkar’s minority Fine Gael government in power through a confidence and supply arrangement.
Speaking from his home in Karnataka, India, Andanappa Yalagi, the father of Savita Halappanavar, who died of sepsis after being denied an abortion in Galway in 2012, welcomed the news. He told the Guardian he was “very happy today”.
“We’ve got justice for Savita,” he said. “What happened to her will not happen to any other family. I have no words to express my gratitude to the people of Ireland at this historic moment.”
“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.”
The mantra “Never again” has been used frequently at vigils held for Savita to argue that women should not be denied healthcare because of the Eighth Amendment.
— ROSA #Repealthe8th (@RosaWomen) May 26, 2018
Most tallies in Dublin have been showing a Yes vote above 70 per cent, with early tallies for Dublin Mid-West as high as 80 per cent.
But some constituencies in places like Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula looked as if they might be out of line with the nationwide mood and rejected repeal.
Cork South Central, the home of Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin appeared to have returned a vote of 66 per cent in favour of Repeal.
Mr Martin, who gambled his leadership, said the Oireachtas must now move efficiently to enact the will of the people.
Two of his party’s TDs, Anne Rabbitte and Dara Calleary, who advocated a ‘No’ vote said they would now support the Government’s proposed legislation to provide for abortion services.
Over here in the UK the minority Conservative government’s Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt tweeted:
Based on the exit poll, a historic & great day for Ireland, & a hopeful one for Northern Ireland. That hope must be met. #HomeToVote stories are a powerful and moving testimony as to why this had to happen and that understanding & empathy exists between generations. #trustwomen
— Penny Mordaunt MP (@PennyMordaunt) May 25, 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government depends on the support of the DUP – which vehemently opposes liberalising Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws – for her Commons majority.
More than 700 Northern Irish women travelled to the British mainland to terminate their pregnancies in 2016, avoiding the threat of jail in Northern Ireland.
Thousands of Irish people living abroad returned to Ireland to vote, if they were still on the electoral register, or to canvas and mobilised under the #hometovote hashtag.