‘New politics’ brings historic change

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An overwhelming vote in favour of repealing the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution has opened the way for the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws, with a final result of 66.4% to 33.6%.

As votes were counted across Ireland, it was a day of tearful celebrations for pro-choice campaigners, who hailed the referendum as a historic victory for women and social justice.

The result removes an amendment dating from 1983 which rigidly protected the unborn and forced women seeking an abortion to travel to Britain for the procedure, while others were left in a legal limbo.

Even before counting began, the 26 County Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Friday’s referendum marked a culmination of a “quiet revolution” that had taken place over the last few decades.

Mr Varadkar claimed the projected result of exit polls shows the country was not divided and was one that supports women. “We will have a modern Constitution for a modern country,” he said.

Voters chose to drop a ban on abortion, currently only allowed when a woman’s life is at risk, by a margin of more than two-to-one.

Campaigners on the Yes side described the result as a liberation and a victory for women against the oppression of church and state. Ireland’s past treatment of unmarried mothers included the horrific Magdelene Laundries, where pregnant women endured forced labour until their babies were born and available for adoption.

“This is a monumental day for women in Ireland,” said Orla O’Connor, co-director of the Together for Yes group. “This is about women taking their rightful place in Irish society, finally.”

The vote is a “rejection of an Ireland that treated women as second-class citizens,” she said. “This is about women’s equality and this day brings massive change, monumental change for women in Ireland, and there is no going back.”

John McGuirk, spokesperson for the Save the 8th group, said that many Irish citizens will not recognise the country they are waking up in. The group said that voters have created a “tragedy of historic proportions,” but that the vote must be respected.

Katherine Zappone, the country’s minister for children and youth affairs, said she is confident new abortion legislation can be approved by parliament this summer. The move could allow an abortion clinic to commence operation in Dublin by Christmas.

“I feel very emotional,” she said. “I’m especially grateful to the women of Ireland who came forward to provide their personal testimony about the hard times that they endured, the stress and the trauma that they experienced because of the eighth amendment.”

The overall turnout was 64.1%. The highest turnouts were in Wicklow and Dublin Bay North, at over 70%, while the lowest turnouts were in Dublin Central and Dublin Bay South, both at under 55%.

Only County Donegal opposed the move as counting concluded this evening, with a vote of 51.7% against. The strongest constitituency in favour was Dublin Bay South, at 78.5%. The Dublin area overall was 75.5% Yes, while Connacht/Ulster was 57.5%.

An RTE exit poll which predicted the overall measure passing by 69% to 31%, said just 52% were in favour of abortion being available on request up to 12 weeks. Although that policy would likely not have been passed if put directly to the people, abortion rights activists said they expected to be able use the momentum of today’s result to get the key measure through parliament.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who supports making abortion fully available in sharp contrast to his party, said it looked like the referendum had been “emphatically passed” and that the parliamentary should move efficiently to enact “the will of our people”.

LoveBoth spokesperson Dr Ruth Cullen said she would hold the Taoiseach to his promise of limited abortion.

“We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard,” she said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was delighted by the result. She said the vote would make it easier to convince her party to adopt a more liberal policy on abortion. There was “new politics” in action, she said.

“This is a situation where the people were well ahead of some politicians. The people set the pace.” She said it was an important message of compassion and progress and the vote was “cathartic”. She added: “We have without doubt done right by Irish women for this generation and many to come.”

Ms McDonald was one of a number of campaigners who pointed to the exclusion of the voters in the North, where voting is prohibited under Irish law and abortion remains illegal. She and Sinn Fein Deputy Leader, Michelle O’Neill, held up a sign to read ‘The North is Next’ at the final declaration this evening at Dublin Castle.

The father of dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died of sepsis in Galway in 2012 after being denied an abortion during a protracted miscarriage, has expressed delight at the Yes victory. Andanappa Yalagi told local media in India that he was “very happy today”.

He added: “We’ve got justice for Savita. 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.”

OVERALL RESULT

YES 66.4%, NO 33.6%

RESULTS BY CONSTITUENCY

Carlow-Kilkenny: YES 63.50%, NO 36.50%
Cavan-Monaghan: YES 55.46%, NO 44.54%
Clare: YES 64.28%, NO 35.72%
Cork East: YES 64.12%, NO 35.88%
Cork North-Central: YES 64.02%, NO 35.98%
Cork North-West: YES 60.10%, NO 39.90%
Cork South-Central: YES 68.84%, NO 31.16%
Cork South-West: YES 64.51%, NO 35.49%
Donegal: YES 48.13%, NO 51.87%
Dublin Bay North: YES 74.69%, NO 25.31%
Dublin Bay South: YES 78.49%, NO 21.51%
Dublin Central: YES 76.51%, NO 23.49%
Dublin Fingal: YES 76.96%, NO 23.04%
Dublin Mid-West: YES 73.27%, NO 26.73%
Dublin North-West: YES 73.08%, NO 26.92%
Dublin Rathdown: YES 76.10%, NO 23.90%
Dublin South-Central: YES 74.79%, NO 25.21%
Dublin South-West: YES 74.91%, NO 25.09%
Dublin West: YES 74.02%, NO 25.98%
Dun Laoghaire: YES 77.06%, NO 22.94%
Galway East: YES 60.19%, NO 39.81%
Galway West: YES 65.95%, NO 34.05%
Kerry: YES 58.27%, NO 41.73%
Kildare North: YES 73.56%, NO 26.44%
Kildare South: YES 70.66%, NO 29.34%
Laois: YES: 61.35%, NO 38.65%
Limerick City: YES 66.87%, NO 33.13%
Limerick County: YES 58.08%, NO 41.92%
Longford-Westmeath: YES 58.27%, NO 41.73%
Louth: YES 66.55%, NO 33.45%
Mayo: YES 57.07%, NO 42.93%
Meath East: YES 69.21%, NO 30.79%
Meath West: YES 63.95%, NO 36.05%
Offaly: YES 58.05%, NO 41.95%
Roscommon-Galway: YES 57.21%, NO 42.79%
Sligo-Leitrim: YES 61.08%, NO 38.92%
Tipperary: YES 59.15%, NO 40.85%
Waterford: YES 69.43%, NO 30.57%
Wexford: YES 68.40%, NO 31.60%
Wicklow: YES 74.26%, NO 25.74%

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