Ireland has voted by a landslide to legalise abortion in a stunning outcome that marks a dramatic defeat for the Catholic church’s one-time domination of the Republic.
The Irish electorate voted by 1,429,981 votes to 723,632 in favour of abolishing a controversial constitutional amendment that gave equal legal status to the lives of a foetus and the woman carrying it. The result was a two-thirds majority: 66.4% yes to 33.6% no.
By voting yes in unexpectedly large numbers to abolish the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, the country has enabled the government in Dublin to introduce abortion in Ireland’s health service up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.
Saturday’s triumph for abortion reformers occurred only months before a papal visit to the country – the first since John Paul II’s tour of Ireland in 1979. After Pope Francis leaves Ireland in August, the Irish minority government, with the backing of opposition parties, will within weeks start the process of drawing up legislation to allow for abortion, which was once an unthinkable political project in Ireland.
Welcoming the massive endorsement in favour of reform, Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, promised to introduce legal terminations by the end of this year.