Ireland has voted by a landslide to liberalise its highly restrictive abortion laws in a referendum that its prime minister called the culmination of a ‘quiet revolution’ in what was one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries. Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation were estimated to have backed the change by more than two-to-one, according to two exit polls released on Friday evening, and the government plans to bring in legislation by the end of the year. It’s incredible. For all the years and years and years we’ve been trying to look after women and not been able to look after women, this means everything,’ said Mary Higgins, obstetrician and Together For Yes campaigner. With results declared in just over half of the 40 voting constituencies, 67 per cent backed the proposal. Final results were due later on Saturday.
‘The public have spoken. The result appears to be resounding … in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment’ constitutional ban on abortion, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned for repeal, told journalists in Dublin. ‘What we see is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has been taking place in Ireland over the last couple of decades,’ said Varadkar, who became Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister last year. The outcome is the latest milestone on a path of change for a country which only legalised divorce by a razor thin majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years ago.