Majority support repeal of Eighth Amendment, poll shows

‘Irish Times’/Ipsos MRBI survey reveals 67% of Irish voters back abortion in some cases

Two-thirds of voters say they are in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution to allow for abortion in cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormalities, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The Eighth Amendment, inserted into the Constitution as article 40.3.3 in 1983, guarantees the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother, and is the foundation for Ireland’s anti-abortion laws.

The attorney general recently reaffirmed her advice that proposed legislation allowing for abortion in case of fatal foetal abnormalities fell foul of the constitutional protections of article 40.3.3.

The Dáil rejected the legislation, proposed by Independent TD Mick Wallace, yesterday.


Asked if they were in favour of changing the Constitution “so that terminations in, for example, the case of rape or fatal foetal abnormality might be made legal”, 67 per cent of respondents said they were in favour.

Some 21 per cent said they were opposed to repealing the eighth amendment, while 12 per cent said they didn’t know.

Support in Dublin

Support for repealing the anti-abortion provisions of the Constitution is highest in Dublin (75 per cent) and among the wealthiest AB voters (79 per cent).

There is no difference between men and women on the subject, with 67 per cent of men and 68 per cent of women in favour of repeal.

Voters aged 65 and over are much more likely (39 per cent) to support the anti-abortion position, while farmers are also more likely to support retention of the amendment (35 per cent).

Nonetheless, the repeal position leads – albeit by varying degrees – across all age groups and geographic areas, across urban and rural and across all social classes.

Supporters of all parties back the change suggested in the question. Respondents who say they will vote for Independents and small parties are most likely to favour repeal, with 79 per cent in favour, against 13 per cent who favour retaining the constitutional ban.

Almost three-quarters of Labour (73 per cent) and of Sinn Féin (72 per cent) supporters back a change.

Two-thirds of Fine Gael voters (66 per cent) say they favour repeal in the circumstances proposed, while 24 per cent are opposed.

Fianna Fáil supporters are least likely to back a change, though the repeal case is still backed by 63 per cent of them. Some 27 per cent are against changing the Constitution.

Today’s figures are broadly in line with a poll in the Irish Times earlier this year, where 64 per cent said they were in favour of repealing the amendment and 25 per cent were against in the circumstances offered in the question.

Limited liberalisation

Today’s poll – and previous polls in The Irish Times – suggest there is public support for at least a limited liberalisation of Ireland’s strict anti-abortion regime. The question in today’s poll suggests only such a limited liberalisation.

For this to happen, article 40.3.3 would have to be repealed.

However, it is not clear that there is sufficient public support for the introduction of a UK-style regime in Ireland, where – subject to term limits – there is general access to abortion.

Though this is the demand of many pro-choice campaigners, many politicians in Leinster House doubt that such a proposal would pass in a referendum.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times