IRELAND is set to make history today as two major exit polls point towards the country finally legalising abortion.
Exit polls have predicted a landslide victory for the YES campaign as the PM hailed the early results as “democracy in action”.
CLODAGH KILCOYNE Celebrations have erupted in Ireland as the count continues in the abortion referendum
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted: “Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It’s looking like we will make history tomorrow…. #Together4Yes”.
His comments came as an RTE exit poll suggested that almost 70 per cent of voters wanted to see an end to the termination ban.
A second exit poll by The Irish Times recorded 68 per cent of the electorate were in favour of reform.
Tánaiste and Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland Simon Coveney has also celebrated the early indications, tweeting: "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".
Reuters People emotionally listen to results of an exit poll Getty Images – Getty A Yes campaigner breaks down in tears as the country votes on the 8th amendment Repeal supporters are filled with emotion as the count begins in Ireland A yes ballot is shown at count in Dublin as the world waits for the results Tally keepers at work as votes are counted in Dublin Votes are being counted as Ireland voted over a change to the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution Getty Images – Getty Ireland has voted overwhelmingly in favour of liberalising abortion laws, an exit poll has revealed
However, prominent No campaigner Cora Sherlock expressed disappointment at the polls, tweeting: "Exit polls, if accurate, paint a very sad state of affairs tonight.
"But those who voted No should take heart. Abortion on demand would deal Ireland a tragic blow but the pro-life movement will rise to any challenge it faces. Let's go into tomorrow with this in mind. #8thref".
Spokesman for Ireland's pro-life 'Save The 8th' campaign, John McGuirk, has conceded that his campaign has lost the referendum.
A woman tearfully kneels infront of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin Getty Images – Getty Yes campaign activist and podcaster Andrea Horan (L) is hugged by Cara Sanquest (R) as the count continues CLODAGH KILCOYNE A woman checks underneath a ballot box in Dublin to make sure it has been emptied properly Getty Images – Getty Yes campaigners hug one another at the count in Dublin Reuters Emotions are running high as Yes campaigners prepare for a historic victory Getty Images – Getty A Yes campaigner breaks down in tears and is hugged as the count continues in Dublin Getty Images – Getty Activists react at the count centre as votes are tallied
Voters queued throughout the day in the blistering sunshine with one of the highest reported turnouts for a referendum.
Counting is underway, and while a formal result is not due until later in the day, the data already suggests that Ireland is on the cusp of a defining moment in its history.
Getty Images – Getty Votes continue to be counted as the world awaits the results from Ireland Getty Images – Getty Yes campaigner and ROSA activist Keishia Taylor celebrates at early indications point to a victory for repeal Getty Images – Getty A Yes campaigner breast feeds her baby at the count in Dublin
An exit poll, conducted by Ipsos/MRBI for The Irish Times, suggests the margin of those in favour of liberalising the law will be around 68 per cent to 32 per cent.
The paper, which quizzed 4,000 voters leaving booths on Friday, says there was a huge difference in the views held by young and old voters.
It found 87 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 voted Yes, while 83 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 also voted to repeal.
In stark contrast, the over 65 age group voted No – by 60 per cent to 40 per cent.
Getty Images – Getty Taoiseach Leo Varadkar casting his vote in the referendum on Friday Workers wait to start counting votes at Dublin's RDS as the world awaits the result with bated breath @mairinmurray Yes vote supporters celebrated the exit polls overnight in Dublin as Ireland prepares for historic change today Getty Images – Getty Niamh Gavin casts her vote as she holds her daughter Fiadh aged five months at a polling station in Athlone, Ireland PA:Press Association A mother holds her baby as she casts her vote in the abortion referendum in Ireland Getty Images – Getty Polls closed at 10pm amid reports of strong turnout in many parts of the country, particularly in urban areas EPA A woman and a child enter a polling station in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday Getty Images – Getty An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon
Prominent Irish celebrities have already started celebrating, with a number of interesting tweets, celebratory messages and hilarious memes springing up online.
Writer Graham Linehan, who changed his Twitter name to Graham YES Linehan, tweeted a doctored image showing a famous scene from Father Ted.
The image shows the priest – representing Ireland – kicking a bishop representing the Eighth Amendment.
— Graham YES Linehan (@Glinner) May 25, 2018
G’wan Ireland. This is a big day, and we’re all thinking of you. #yesyesIsaidyes
— Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain) May 25, 2018
Irish author Marian Keyes was – who changed her Twitter handle to Marian KeYES for the vote – was among the first celebrities to react on Twitter.
Welcoming the exit poll's findings, she wrote: "Oh my god Lads! Exit poll shows 68% voted YES! Can exit polls be trusted? If so, THIS IS GREAT THANK YOU, EVERYONE!!!"
Irish comedian and television presenter Dara O Briain expressed his surprise, tweeting simply "Janey mac", having earlier tweeted: "G'wan Ireland. This is a big day, and we're all thinking of you. #yesyesIsaidyes"
Irish comedian Ed Byrne tweeted: "I really wish I had it in me to simply rejoice in a victory for Irish women, but I can't help but delight in this being a defeat some of the most despicable people in Ireland."
Comedian David Schneider also reacted positively to the result, saying: "Come on, Ireland! Let the exit poll be right! Go on! Repeal it! #RepealThe8th."
TwitterCall The Midwife star Stephen McGann revealed he was brought to tears by the exit poll.
He tweeted: "Tearing up in work at reports of the exit poll. Those silent legions of poor, scared, lonely women. All of that coldness and shame. Please let it end now with a single, strong, healing heart. x."
Voters in the once deeply Catholic country were asked if they wish to scrap a 1983 amendment to the constitution that gives an unborn child and its mother equal rights to life.
AP:Associated Press A woman casts her vote with her young daughters in the referendum on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, in Dublin, Ireland
The consequent prohibition on abortion was partly lifted in 2013 for cases where the mother's life is in danger.
Ireland legalised divorce by a razor-thin majority only in 1995, but became the first country to adopt gay marriage.
But no social issue has divided its 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion.
PA:Press Association If the public does vote Yes, 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
It was pushed up the political agenda in 2012 following the death of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.
"Yes" campaigners have argued that with over 3,000 women travelling to Britain each year for terminations – a right enshrined in a 1992 referendum – and others ordering pills illegally online, abortion is already a reality in Ireland.
Although not on the ballot paper, the "No" camp has seized on government plans to allow abortions with no restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy if the referendum is carried, calling it a human rights issue and a step too far for most voters.
Videos shared on social media showed scores of voters arriving home at Irish airports from abroad.
Getty Images – Getty People hold yes placards as the country heads to polling stations in Dublin, Ireland
CORRIE KID TO BE DAD
FIRST CLASS FOOL
BACK WITH A BANG
I DON'T REGRET KILLING