‘Irish Times’ poll: Majority want repeal of Eighth Amendment

Almost 75% of voters favour repeal of Eighth Amendment to allow abortion in limited circumstances, survey shows

A significant majority of voters are in favour of changing the Constitution to allow for abortion but only in limited circumstances, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

A citizens’ assembly will meet for the first time later this month to consider the future of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and is due to come up with a recommendation on its future before next Easter.

The Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, was inserted into the Constitution after a referendum on the issue in 1983.

In the poll voters were asked for their views on whether the amendment should stay or on what terms it should be repealed.


A total of 18 per cent said it should not be repealed; 55 per cent said it should be repealed to allow for limited access to abortion in the cases of rape and fatal foetal abnormality; 19 per cent said it should be repealed to allow for abortion in all cases requested, as in Britain, while 8 per cent had no opinion.

The message from the poll is that a proposal to repeal the amendment has a good chance of succeeding if the conditions in which abortion is allowed are limited to specific circumstances. However, if the introduction of a strictly limited regime is opposed by those who support the current prohibition and those who favour a liberal abortion regime band together a referendum could be a close-run thing.


There was no major difference in opinion between men and women on the issue with women marginally more in favour in retaining the blanket prohibition on abortion. Women were also less inclined than men to favour a liberal abortion regime on the British model.

Support for repeal of the amendment is strongest in Dublin, with 57 per cent in favour of limited access to abortion, 23 per cent in favour of a liberal abortion regime and 13 per cent in favour of retaining the current prohibition.

The strongest support for retention of the amendment is in Connacht-Ulster where 23 per cent would like to see it remain in the Constitution, 54 per cent favour repeal to cater for limited abortion and 15 per cent opted for wide access to abortion.

In age terms, younger people are more in favour of repeal than older people, with the over 65s the strongest in support of retaining the amendment.

In class terms, the poorest DE voters and farmers are the most strongly in favour of retaining the amendment while the best-off AB voters are most in favour of repealing it to allow wide access.


However, across all categories the favoured option is repeal of the Eighth Amendment to allow for abortion in the limited circumstances of rape and fatal foetal abnormality, with between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of those polled favouring this option.

In party political terms, Fianna Fáil voters were easily the most strongly in favour of retaining the amendment. Labour voters, at 27 per cent, were the strongest supporters of wide access to abortion.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voters were relatively close in their approach to the issue with supporters of both parties strongly against wide access to abortion and a majority of both favouring limited access.

Supporters of Sinn Féin, Independents and smaller parties were also strongly in favour of removing the amendment.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times