Voting closes on Ireland abortion law referendum

  • Updated
  • 26/05/2018

Voting has closed on the Ireland's referendum on abortion laws - with early exit polls suggesting the country has voted to repeal the eighth amendment, which bans abortion.

If the yes vote succeeds, the Irish Government will be able draft legislation on abortions, and is expected to allow unrestricted terminations for up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

A poll by the Irish Times suggest a victory for 'yes' by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, according to a random sample of 4000 voters.

An RTE/Behaviour & Attitudes survey put the margin at 69 percent to 31 percent.

If confirmed, the outcome will be the latest milestone on a path of change for a country which only legalised divorce by a razor-thin majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years ago.

"It's looking like we will make history tomorrow," Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who was in favour of change, said on Twitter.

Photographs on Twitter showed campaigners hugging and in tears at the Together4yes umbrella group's headquarters shortly after the first exit poll was published.

Varadkar called the vote a once-in-a-generation chance and voters responded with national broadcaster RTE reporting that turnout could be one of the highest for a referendum, potentially topping the 61 percent who backed gay marriage by a large margin.

No social issue has divided Ireland's 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Yet the Irish Times exit poll showed overwhelming majorities in all age groups under 65 voted for change, including almost nine in every 10 voters under the age of 24.

An official result will not be announced until Saturday morning (local time).

Ireland has some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, with many women resorting to leaving the country in order to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

The hashtag #HomeToVote has gone viral on social media, with pro-choice supporters dressed in 'Repeal' T-shirts and 'Yes' badges flying back to their homeland to vote.

Reuters / Newshub.