Ireland votes to remove constitutional ban on abortion by resounding two-thirds majority

Thirty-five years after its introduction, Eighth Amendment repealed after bitter campaign

Thirty-five years after it was placed into the Constitution, the electorate voted for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed and for provision be made for the regulation of termination of pregnancy. Video: Kathleen Harris/ Enda O'Dowd

 

The country has voted to remove the constitutional ban on abortion by a two-thirds majority.

Thirty-five years after it was placed into the Constitution, the electorate voted for the Eighth Amendment to be repealed and for provision be made for the regulation of termination of pregnancy. See here for liveblog updates on Saturday on developments as count results on the resounding result became clear across the State. 

Every constituency except Donegal, which voted in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment by 51. 87 to 48.13, passed the referendum by a clear mandate.

There were joyous and tearful scenes in Dublin Castle as the results were announced just after 6pm, showing 66 per cent of the electorate had supported the proposition.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who led the Government’s campaign, said it was a historic day for the country and for the women of Ireland.

A woman sits in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin as votes are counted in the referendum on the 8th Amendment. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A woman sits in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin as votes are counted in the referendum on the 8th Amendment. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was a clear message to those who had suffered at the hands of the Eighth Amendment that the country supported them and wanted to care for them, Mr Harris added.

Over 2.15 million people cast their vote in the referendum. Some 6,042 people spoiled their vote. About 1.42 million people backed repeal of the Eighth, while 723, 632 voted in favour of retaining the amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Senator Catherine Noone and Minister for Health Simon Harris acknowledge crowds at Dublin Castle on the day the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was repealed. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Senator Catherine Noone and Minister for Health Simon Harris acknowledge crowds at Dublin Castle on the day the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was repealed. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald were present as the vote was announced.

‘Dawn of a new era’

Mr Martin said the outcome signalled the “dawn of a new era” and had to be respected by the Oireachtas.

Abortion referendum: Counting the votes

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The focus has now shifted to the passage of legislation, and the question of whether TDs and Senators who have opposed repealing the Eighth Amendment would now seek to block the legislation.

The Fianna Fáil party would not stand in the way of implementing the people’s decision, Mr Martin insisted.

And we say that we trust women and we respect women and their decisions. For me it is also the day when we said, ‘No more’

The Cabinet will on Tuesday consider a request from the Minister for Health to draft the Heads of a Bill to implement the decision of the people.

Mr Harris said he expected it be published by the summer recess and passed by the end of the year.

There is a strong mandate to implement the decision of the people as soon as possible, the Minister added.

Co-Directors of Together For Yes Grainne Griffin (left) and Ailbhe Smyth (centre) at the RDS. Photograph: Brial Lawless/PA Wire
Co-Directors of Together For Yes Grainne Griffin (left) and Ailbhe Smyth (centre) at the RDS. Photograph: Brial Lawless/PA Wire

The legislation will need to be accompanied by discussions with the medical representative groups on how abortion services will be provided in this country.

Terminations will be made accessible within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and beyond that when there is a risk to the mother’s life or of serious harm to her health.

The result was clear from early on in the day, but it was not officially declared until early Saturday evening.

It was met with widespread applause from the thousands of people who had gathered in Dublin Castle to witness this historic moment.

Quiet revolution

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a quiet revolution had taken place in a great act of democracy.

“A hundred years since women got the right to vote, today, we as a people have spoken. And we say that we trust women and we respect women and their decisions. For me it is also the day when we said, ‘No more’.”

Beth Miggin, Dublin and Abi Griffin, Waterford, at Dublin Castle as results in the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment are announced. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Beth Miggin, Dublin and Abi Griffin, Waterford, at Dublin Castle as results in the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment are announced. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Together For Yes co-ordinator Orla O’Connor said they had felt a strong response on the doors but did not dare to believe it could happen.

Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, described it as a watershed moment for the country.

Those who opposed the referendum said they accepted the will of the people but expressed disappointment at the outcome.

Independent Senator Ronán Mullen said Ireland has lost “something very beautiful” with the removal of the Eighth Amendment.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald arrives at the count centre in Dublin's RDS as votes are counted in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which prohibits abortions unless a mother's life is in danger. Picture date: Saturday May 26, 2018. See PA story IRISH Abortion. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald arrives at the count centre in Dublin's RDS as votes are counted in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which prohibits abortions unless a mother's life is in danger. Picture date: Saturday May 26, 2018. See PA story IRISH Abortion. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Mr Mullen said “a lot of unborn children will lose their lives in future – that is what happens when abortion gets legalised”.

“I would ask people to keep those children in their thoughts and prayers today, and their mothers, and those involved in their lives.”

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