Landslide Irish vote repeals restrictive abortion amendment

World Today

Abortion referendumPro-Choice supporters celebrate as the results are announced to Repeal the 8th Amendmend and legalize abortion in Ireland. (James Forde/Center for Reproductive Rights/AFP-Services)

A landslide vote brought Ireland a step closer to lifting a decades-old ban on abortion on Saturday. More than 1.4 million people voted in favor of repealing the constitution’s eighth amendment. “Yes” had a majority of over 706,000.

CGTN’s Richard Bestic reports from Dublin.

Hours before the count was even completed, exit polls showed victory had been handed to those urging reform. Supporters of change to Ireland’s draconian abortion laws were jubilant.

“Overjoyed, overwhelmed,” described one supporter. “I’ve been waiting for this for such a long time.”

“It’s like the beginning of righting the wrongs in Irish history,” another said.

Turnout for landmark referendum was at record levels, with more than 64 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. The size of the majority calling for change sent a clear message to the government. And with the scale of the mandate given to the country’s political leaders, there’s expected to be little Parliamentary resistance to plans that will put Ireland’s abortion laws into line with most of Europe.

Outside the count, it was a carnival atmosphere as hundreds gathered at Dublin Castle to share in the delights of victory.

“I was a first time voter in this referendum, so to be part of something that was so changing, groundbreaking in the country, was really amazing,” one voter said.

“For me, the result is just fantastic for all of Ireland and for all the women and men, and including the deaf community,” according to another.

When Prime Minister Leo Varadkar arrived, he struggled to make his way through celebrating crowds before telling them the referendum had been a quiet revolution for a modern Ireland.

“The people have spoken,” he told the crowd. “They are saying that this is a country in which we trust women and respect their choices. Thank you so much for making today possible. Thank you.”

Varadkar’s government now plans to quickly draw up legislation allowing abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Until the referendum, thousands of women every year were forced to travel overseas for an abortion, mainly to the U.K.  Others would illegally buy abortion pills online, taking them without medical supervision.

The result will put pressure on Northern Ireland – in the U.K.’s jurisdiction – where abortions are illegal in all but the most extreme cases.  Politicians in London are already taking to social media to welcome the result in the South, saying laws in the North will come under the spotlight.

Lara Whyte discusses Ireland’s abortion referendum

Journalist Lara Whyte discusses Ireland’s abortion referendum with CGTN’s Susan Roberts. Whyte is a journalist at “Open Democracy,” an independent global media platform.