NEWS
26/05/2018 18:18 BST | Updated 26/05/2018 18:59 BST

Ireland Abortion Referendum Result: Country Votes 'Yes' To Legalisation

The Prime Minister said on Saturday: 'The people have spoken'.

PAUL FAITH via Getty Images

The Irish public have voted overwhelmingly in favour of repealing the country’s ban on abortion. 

The final results from the referendum - which was held on Friday - revealed that 66.4% of voters cast their ballot in favour of repealing Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which effectively makes abortion illegal by giving pregnant women and foetuses the same right to life. 

Referendum returning officer Barry Ryan announced that the ‘Yes’ campaign won the referendum with a majority of 706,349 votes.  

The announcement sparked huge cheers from crowds gathered at Dublin Castle, with ‘Yes’ campaigners popping bottles of champagne at the news. 

Turnout for the referendum was confirmed at 64.5% - three points higher than the historic gay marriage referendum in 2015 and a record for such a vote in Ireland. 

Donegal was the only constituency to vote ‘No’, with 51.87% against and 48.13% for, the results revealed.

The decision paves the way for the Irish government to introduce new legislation that is likely to allow women to seek a termination within 12 weeks of pregnancy. 

Exit polls had suggested a landslide victory for the ‘Yes’ camp, suggesting that 69% of voters had backed the repeal campaign. 

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar referendum result marked “the day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light”.

It was “the day we came of age as a country” and “the day we took our place among the nations of the world”, he said. 

“Today, we have a modern constitution for a modern people.” 

Referencing the poet Maya Angelou’s words that history “cannot be unlived” but “if faced with courage, need not be lived again”, Varadkar said: “The wrenching pain of decades of mistreatment of Irish women cannot be unlived.

“However, today we have ensured that it does not have to be lived again.”

The official results come hours after the Save the 8th campaign conceded defeat.

Communications director John McGuirk said that the ‘No’ campaign would oppose forthcoming laws to allow abortion in Ireland. 

“The unborn child no longer has a right to life recognised by the Irish state,” he said in a statement. “Shortly legislation will be introduced that will allow babies to be killed in our country.  

“Every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known,” McGuirk added. 

But the head of the Irish opposition, Michael Martin, said his party would not stand in the way of relaxing the laws. 

Pundits had suggested his party’s supporters were almost evenly split between Yes and No, and many of his party members in the Dail parliament advocated a No vote. He said the Dail would honour the will of the people.

Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris told crowds at Dublin Castle, where the result was announced: “Thank you so much to everybody who voted, to everybody who came out, the men, the women, the voters in rural Ireland and urban Ireland, who thought long and hard about this question and they said we want to live in a more compassionate country where we look after our women.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the result a “fantastic victory for women’s rights”, congratulating everyone who took part in the “inspiring campaign” to repeal the Eighth Amendment. 

The success of the ‘Yes’ campaign has renewed calls that abortion should be de-criminalised in Northern Ireland.

Despite being part of the UK, Northern Ireland has banned terminations in almost every instance, including when the mother is the victim of rape or incest, and when the unborn child has an abnormality that means it would not survive outside of the womb. 

Speaking from Dublin Castle, Northern Irish women Claire Donaldson and Ellie Evans told HuffPost UK they were “absolutely elated” by the result and “so excited for what it means for Northern Ireland”. 

“Today we celebrate - tomorrow we fight back,” they said. 

Sara Nelson/ HuffPost UK
Claire Donaldson and Ellie Evans from Northern Ireland said they were 'so excited' about what the result means for women north of the border 

Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International, said it must not be forgotten that women in Northern Ireland “are still persecuted by a Victorian-era abortion ban”. 

Calling it “hypocritical, degrading and insulting” that Northern Irish women cannot access vital healthcare services at home, Teggart added: “The UK Government can no longer turn a blind eye and deny us equality.

“We cannot be left behind in a corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens.”

But any move to relax laws around abortion in Northern Ireland is likely to inspire a backlash from the DUP.  

DUP MP Ian Paisley wrote on Twitter that the country “should not be bullied into accepting abortion on demand”. 

“NI did not have a constitutional imperative on abortion it is governed by laws that can be changed,” he said. “The settled will of the people has been to afford protections to the unborn life and protect the life of the mother.” 

This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Check back for the fullest version. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.