Repeal the Eighth

Landslide win for Yes vote in abortion poll

Yes supporters celebrate Ireland's landslide vote for change.

Yes supporters celebrate Ireland's landslide vote for change.

Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to reform its strict abortion laws.

Campaigners celebrated with champagne after a historic referendum result in which two-to-one polled in favour of change.

Crowds chanted the name of the Indian dentist whose death after she was refused a termination while miscarrying electrified an emotive revolution in social attitudes.

The public decided by a landslide to repeal part of the state's constitution which effectively prohibits the procedure unless a mother's life is endangered.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I believe today will be remembered as the day we embraced our responsibilities as citizens and as a country.

"The day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light. The day we came of age as a country. The day we took our place among the nations of the world."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar celebrates with Health Minister Simon Harris.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar celebrates with Health Minister Simon Harris.

The poll was held on Friday, with the Government promising to allow the controversial medical intervention in early pregnancy which has polarised Irish society for decades.

It produced conclusive consensus for reform amongst men and women, nearly all classes and age groups and across most counties in Ireland.

The vote was 66.4% to 33.6% in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, which effectively outlawed abortions.

The only constituency to vote no, narrowly, was Donegal in the north-west.

Crowds gathered in the courtyard at Dublin Castle to hear the result began chanting "Savita, Savita", in reference to dentist Savita Halappanavar, 31, who died in an Irish hospital after she was refused a termination while she miscarried. Her family said the new measure should be called Savita's Law.

Around 200,000 Irish women have travelled to the UK since 1983 for the procedure, Mr Varadkar said, returning home from places like Liverpool with tiny coffins.

Health minister Simon Harris, a prominent voice for yes during the referendum campaign, led victorious supporters in a round of "Yes We Did" chants, a version of former US President Barack Obama's famous campaign slogan.

He said: "Under the Eighth Amendment we used to say to women in crisis: take the boat or take the plane. Today we say, take our hand."

Mr Varadkar said: "We voted to look reality in the eye and we did not blink and voted to provide compassion where there was once a cold shoulder."

Huge crowds gathered at Dublin Castle to celebrate the result.

Huge crowds gathered at Dublin Castle to celebrate the result.

Thousands were in the castle courtyard by the time the official results were announced on Saturday evening.

Some dressed as angels, while hundreds wore jumpers and T-shirts with campaign slogans.

Maeve Conway, 21, decorated her dog Baby's harness with Yes badges.

"For 35 years we were waiting for this," she said. "It's a huge change for Irish women."

Another repeal supporter said she finally felt free in Ireland.

"Everyone respects us and our decisions and it is really feeling there is support ... and not to feel that they are going to throw you into a home or ship us off to a foreign country."

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.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the days of exiling women in the most tragic circumstances were over.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley claimed the unborn child was the big loser, while a leader of the No campaign, Cora Sherlock, said it was a sad day for those who believed in genuine human rights.


 

Excluded voters keen to be heard

Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Almost all Irish citizens living in Australia are not allowed to vote in the referendum on abortion. Irish diplomatic staff can but that's about it.

The vote, on May 25, will ask people to consider repealling the 8th amendment, which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances.

But a series of events have been held in Sydney and Melbourne advocating for a ‘yes’ vote. 

Diaspora Downunder Dollars for Choice (#ddd4c) is a campaign aiming for 30 events around Australia to fundraise for Together for Yes.

Convenor of the Irish Pro Choice group Shauna Stanley said it was frustrating that expats “cannot get our voices heard at the ballot box” but “we can contribute some of our hard-earned Australian dollars to give the Together for Yes campaign every chance for success”.

DDD4C has received pledges from all around Australia, including themed parties, events and a pub quiz at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet pub.

“We have had an amazing response, with lots of creative ideas from supporters all over the country. It’s been hugely inspiring to see this kind of grassroots organising. 

“Irish people always love good craic, but have shown themselves to be extra keen to get on board for this cause,” Stanley said.  

Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

“This has a movement led by women organising to demand their rights, against a well-funded anti-choice lobby. We may be 20,000 kilometres away, but we can feel the international reach of the sisterhood,” said Stanley.

Fellow campaigner Elaine Arnold said “We wanted to [find] a way of collectively contributing towards positive progression in Ireland.”

Supporters of a ‘yes’ vote also gathered at the Irish-owned 34 Bia restaurant last weekend for a fundraiser. Organised by Louise Nealon and Ann Marie Crotty, tickets included a full Irish breakfast and a donation to the Together for Yes campaign in Ireland.  Ticket sales and raffle raised more than $2000.

Emigrants urged to travel home to vote in abortion referendum

Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An estimated 40,000 Irish people living abroad are eligible to vote in a planned referendum on abortion.

Campaigners are urging emigrants to return home to cast their ballot and have their say on whether to change restrictive laws on termination of pregnancy.

The Irish Government backed proposals to hold a referendum on the State's Constitution which grants equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.

It is expected to be held in May.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has kicked off its #HomeToVote social media drive.

Dubliner Mary Jane Fox, who moved to the UK at the beginning of the year, has already pledged to make the journey home.

"Even though I'm fresh off the boat in London, I'll be making the journey and encouraging everyone I know to go back too," Ms Fox said.

"It is ironic that so many Irish women are forced to make the same trip in reverse to have an abortion.

"I want to travel home to make sure this comes to an end."

The organisers said they want to emulate the surge in interest by emigrants who came back to Ireland to vote in support of gay marriage reform in May 2015.

The Home to Vote campaign aims to encourage any citizen living abroad for less than 18 months to return to vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which imposes strict limitations on abortion in Irish law.

More than 30,800 Irish people emigrated in the 12 months to the end of April 2017, according to the latest official figures.

It is estimated a further 20,000 emigrated in the second half of last year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined last week that voters would be asked whether they wanted to repeal the controversial amendment and replace it with new wording to allow parliament to legislate on abortion in the future.

Terminations are only allowed in Ireland when the life of the mother is at risk and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

Last December, a report by a specially convened parliamentary committee found the Eighth Amendment was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

That followed recommendations from members of Ireland's Citizens' Assembly to liberalise the law on terminations.

The committee also recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision.