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It's A Yes: Ireland votes to repeal the eighth amendment and legalise abortion

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Today, Ireland voted in favour of repealing the eighth amendment with a 66.4% majority.

The repeal means that Irish women will finally be able to access abortion in their own country. People are turning their attention to Northern Ireland to look at reforming their own abortion laws.

Ireland surpassed all expectations, with a record high turnout for an Irish referendum of 64.51%, more than three points higher than in the last referendum in 2015 and the Yes side winning by a far higher margin than anyone anticipated.

The No campaign conceded defeat early this morning before any of the constituencies results had even been officially declared. The exit polls last night all put the Yes side as winning by a landslide.

The 18-24 age group, in particular, voted in an overwhelming majority, with 87.6% voting in favour of repeal, no doubt in part due to the campaigns from universities supporting Irish students abroad going home to vote.

The only age group to vote mostly in favour of keeping the amendment were those over 65 and the only political party to vote in favour was Fianna Fail (50.3%). 

The decisive victory of the Yes side in this referendum, along with the win for same-sex marriage in 2015, shows just how far attitudes in Ireland have changed. It also represents the disappearing influence of the Catholic Church, suggesting that the Church's influence on public opinion is not as strong as it once was.

The vote will allow for abortions up to 12 weeks on demand (no reason needed), and up to 24 weeks on more restricted grounds (health of the mother, cases of fatal fetal abnormalities), bringing Ireland's laws in line with other EU countries with legal abortions.

Victory for the Yes campaign means that Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK and Ireland where abortion is illegal, with Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable stating that "action will now have to be taken" over Northern Ireland.

Today's result is good news for Northern Irish women, they will now only need to cross a border to access abortions rather than travelling to England. There is no doubt that this historic referendum will put pressure on Northern Irish leaders to follow Ireland's lead.

Ireland's Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar said he wants the new law to be enacted by the end of this year.

On the result, Mr Varadkar stated, " What we've seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that's been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years. The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country". 

John McGuirk, leader of the No campaign, conceded defeat before the votes had even been counted, stating:

"There is no prospect of the legislation not being passed," and that he would continue to oppose such legislation.

 Featured image by Sebastian Dooris

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