PM hails abortion yes vote
Ireland’s prime minister hailed as a ‘‘quiet revolution’’ the vote that delivered an overwhelming verdict in favour of repealing strict abortion laws and marked a drift away from the country’s conservative Catholic roots.
More than 67 per cent voted in favour of reform in a landslide victory for the pro-choice Yes campaign.
Crowds applauded, embraced and wept in the yard of Dublin Castle, where the result was announced yesterday after a day of counting the votes.
A few yards down the road, at City Hall, a group of Yes voters broke into spontaneous singing, cheered on by passersby.
Saying that Ireland had finally ‘‘come of age’’, Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), said: ‘‘The people have said we want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women to make the right decisions about their own healthcare.’’
The support for repealing Ireland’s eighth amendment, which only allows abortion if the mother’s life is at risk, was higher than even the most optimistic of projections in the early stages of the referendum.
It pointed to a seismic shift in social attitudes in a country once synonymous with dogmatic religious conservatism.
The vote on Saturday followed a landmark one on gay marriage and the election of a gay Taoiseach in Varadkar in the last three years.
‘‘We voted to look reality in the eye and we did not blink,’’ said Varadkar.
Orla O’connor, head of the pro-choice Yes campaign, described the result as a ‘‘resounding roar for the Irish people’’.
He said: ‘‘We will be forever indebted to those women and couples whose own bravery and dignity have moved hearts, changed minds and changed the country,’’ she said.
Repealing the eighth amendment will end a regime that banned abortion even in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormalities.
Thousands of women found themselves compelled to travel to England for terminations.
The outcome has also blurred the lines along which Ireland has been traditionally divided. Farmers, for example, came out enthusiastically for the prochoice Yes campaign, as did a group called Grandfathers Say Yes, whose daughters and wives were unable to have safe terminations at home due to the eighth amendment.
‘‘I am absolutely over the moon,’’ said 25-year-old Yes voter Erica Lee.
‘‘The vote for Yes is so much higher than we anticipated. There was talk of a divide between the Dublin bubble and rural areas that could tilt things toward No but that has turned out not to be the case, to our relief.’’
She added the ‘‘patronising, nasty tone’’ of the No campaign, backed by the Catholic church, had brought large numbers of voters into the Yes camp.
Experts had predicted that many of Ireland’s rural regions would vote No, with the Yes votes concentrated around Dublin and other large cities.
But even in County Roscommon, which rejected gay marriage in the 2015 referendum, 59 per cent voted Yes. And in Longford, also long considered a haven of social conservatism, 58 per cent opted for repeal.
Yes support was so widespread that the pro-choice No campaign conceded defeat hours before the count finished.
‘‘The people of Ireland weighed it in the balance and it came down on one side. I obviously would have preferred if they had come down on the other,’’ John Mcguirk, spokesman for the ‘‘Save the 8th’’ campaign, said yesterday.– Telegraph Group