The country has decided by a stunning majority to repeal the controversial constitutional ban on abortion, it will be confirmed today.
Leading members of the no campaign conceded defeat in the country’s abortion referendum before polls even closed yesterday, amid stronger-than-expected voter turnout.
As counting of ballots commences at 9am this morning, the high turnout meant the proposal to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution looks set to be passed.
One of two exit polls, published late last night, suggested the country voted by a huge majority to Repeal the Eighth.
The poll, published by the Irish Times, suggested that the margin of victory for the Yes side in yesterday’s referendum will be 68& to 32%.
It found the highest Yes vote was in Dublin, where 77% of voters backed the proposals, the poll predicted.
The poll suggested that the margin of victory in the rest of Leinster outside Dublin will be 66% to 34%, while Munster will also break 66-34 in favour of repeal.
Even Connacht-Ulster, expected to be the bulwark of the anti-repeal vote, voted in favour of the constitutional change by 59% to 41%, the poll finds.
The poll also finds that women voted in favour of the proposal by a massive margin, with 70% voting in favour and 30% voting against. Support amongst men was weaker, though still convincing, at 65% to 35%.
Admitting they were outgunned during the campaign, No campaigners have warned however they will fight the proposal to legalise abortions as proposed when the legislation goes through the Oireachtas.
Huge turnouts in Dublin, Cork, and other urban areas, helped by glorious sunshine yesterday from early morning, gave a distinct advantage to the yes campaign, as good weather increases young voter turnout, with younger voters more likely to support a yes vote.
Leading no campaigner Rónán Mullen said it was likely the yes side would win, and quite “strongly” in urban areas. However, there were pockets of rural areas that would oppose the removal of the Eighth Amendment, he believed.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said: “This has united the [pro-life] movement. Because we know what is next, the legislation. That will be our focus now. And that states ‘may’ as opposed to ‘shall’. So we will try and persuade them [the government] and work on that.”
Mr Mullen did say that the battleground will now be on trying to reduce the 12-week limit for for unrestricted access to abortion.
The senator made his comments mid-afternoon, half way through polling. He also noted that momentum had been with the yes side in the closing week of the campaign, particularly during the TV debates.
Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív also conceded that the yes side would comfortably win.
“I’d imagine that the yes side is going win. I’d expect them to win handsomely,” he told the Irish Examiner.
He said his own constituency’s result would equate to the rest of the country as it as the perfect mix of rural and urban. Asked why the yes side were likely to win, he answered: “They have had more firepower, more political leaders.”
The former minister predicted the yes side would get around 58%.
Asked if he would accept the will of the people, the former deputy Fianna Fáil leader said: “The will of the people will be that they may ring in legislation.”
Health Minister Simon Harris said he was encouraged by the high turnout from early on in the day and also the fact that so many people had made the journey home to vote.
Speaking in Cork, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who advocated for a yes vote against the wishes of many in his party, said he was confident of winning.
“I get the feeling that the ‘don’t knows’ will break down in favour of yes, so I think the yes will win it. But that said, I have to acknowledge there are reluctant yeses and reluctant nos,” he said.
“I think the people in the current debate have a far greater sense of the complexity of life itself.”
Just before polls closed at 10pm, turnout was reported to be high across much of the country, with some areas in Dublin exceeding 70%, well ahead of recent referendums.
A team of 25 international election observers attended over 250 polling stations across Ireland in yesterday’s referendum.
The team was made up of observers from Britain, Canada, the US, France, and Greece. They worked in teams of two, being accredited by the national returning officer, Barry Ryan.