Exit polls suggest landslide 'Yes' vote in abortion referendum
THE Republic's historic abortion referendum looks to have delivered a landslide win for those advocating liberalisation, after two major exit polls recorded huge victory margins.
One poll by RTÉ suggested almost 70% of the electorate have voted to end the constitution's all but blanket ban on terminations, with another, by The Irish Times, recording 68% in favour of reform.
Counting begins on Saturday morning, with a formal result due until later in the day, but the data suggests the state is on the cusp of a defining moment in its social history.
Reacting to the exit polls, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a vocal proponent of liberalisation, tweeted on Friday night: "Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It's looking like we will make history tomorrow."
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, another Yes campaigner, tweeted: "Thank you to everybody who voted today - democracy can be so powerful on days like today - looks like a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better. Proud to be Irish tonight. Thank u to all at @Together4yes."
Senator Catherine Noone, chairwoman of an Oireachtas committee which recommended the abortion law changes, tweeted: "I'm feeling very emotional tonight - we are a great, compassionate people. So proud of us! #8thref #repealthe8th."
Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas travelled home in droves to exercise their democratic right on the emotive issue.
The vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is in danger.
The specific question people were asked was whether they wanted to see the Eighth Amendment replaced with wording in the constitution that would hand politicians the responsibility to set future laws on abortion, unhindered by constitutional strictures.
If the Yes vote is confirmed, the Irish government intends to legislate by the end of the year to make it relatively easy for a woman to obtain the procedure in early pregnancy.
Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.
The Behaviour & Attitudes poll for RTÉ surveyed 3,800 people at 175 polling stations across the country.
With a margin of error of +/- 1.6%, 69.4% voted to repeal the Eight Amendment of the constitution while 30.6% voted No.
The exit poll conducted for The Irish Times indicated a 68% to 32% Yes vote.
That poll saw 4,000 voters interviewed by Ipsos/MRBI as they left 160 polling stations on Friday.
The margin of error is estimated at +/- 1.5%, the newspaper said.