Scenes of joy as Ireland votes to repeal abortion law

Nearly two-thirds of Irish vote to repeal the eighth constitutional amendment in a referendum.

Counting votes Ireland referendum
Nearly two-thirds of voters said they wanted to repeal Ireland's abortion ban [Una Harty/Al Jazeera]

Dublin, Ireland – Scenes of celebration have erupted across the Irish capital as official results showed that voters in the country overwhelmingly backed the legalisation of abortion services.  

Released on Saturday evening, the final result said that 66.4 percent of people had supported the repeal of the eighth constitutional amendment in Friday’s referendum.

Exit polls had accurately predicted the landslide victory for the Yes camp. 

Galway East became the first constituency to release official results, with 60.2 percent of voters choosing Yes. 

Polling stations in rural Galway saw Yes garnering support of up to 81.20 percent, defying expectations that people in such areas would vote conservatively. 

Surprising statistics also emerged from the Aran islands, all three of which along with Inishbofin voted in favour of repealing. Even neighbouring county Roscommon, the only constituency to vote against equal marriage in 2015, supported the movement with 57.21 percent. 

‘Out-of-body experience’

These results set the trend for the rest of the country.

Officials in Dublin Central said 76.5 percent of voters had put their x in the Yes box. 

In the capital, Yes campaigners and activists gathered at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) convention centre to celebrate their camp’s victory as votes were counted before them. 

Among them was Anna Cosgrave, founder of the Repeal project.

Seeing her side come out on top felt like “an out-of-body experience, an indication that Ireland had utterly changed”, she said.

The result of the referendum felt like an
The result of the referendum felt like an “out of body experience” to Anna Cosgrave [Una Harty/Al Jazeera]

“[It] feels amazing that women are finally getting the appropriate healthcare in their own country,” she said, while also holding a thought for those who had gone before her – for “women who never got to see the result”. 

This sentiment was shared by Alice McPherson, an education officer at Dublin’s Trinity College.

“You can’t undo 35 years of wrong with a single day of voting,” McPherson said.

She also questioned the disparity between opinion polls, which predicted a close result, and the final outcome, saying this begged some “serious questions”. 

Christor Mac Cuirc said pro-choice campaigners must fight for unrestricted access [Una Harty/Al Jazeera]
Christor Mac Cuirc said pro-choice campaigners must fight for unrestricted access [Una Harty/Al Jazeera]

In terms of what’s next for pro-choice activists, long-time campaigner Christor Mac Cuirc said people must fight for unrestricted access.

“We’ve got to hold them to task to bring stuff in that’s not conservative and that’s workable,” he said. 

Yet, not everyone at the RDS was celebrating.

A small group of pro-life advocates sporting “LoveBoth” vests stood at the back of the venue’s hall.

Eoin Shanahan said he was wearing his with “a mixture of disappointment and pride”. 

He said he was saddened “in the way you might feel if you lost a football match, but were still wearing the jersey”.

Shanahan pointed out that anti-abortion voters still accounted for up to one-third of the population in certain areas, and that they should continue to “muster all the support they can politically”. 

Eoin Shanahan wore his 'LoveBoth' vest with 
Eoin Shanahan wore his ‘LoveBoth’ vest with “a mixture of disappointment and pride” [Una Harty/Al Jazeera]

When asked why he believed the majority had voted Yes, he blamed “pro-abortion campaign politicians” for “singling out individual pro-life low incidence cases and honing in on those”. 

As counting came to a close and the final outcome became clear, crowds started moving towards Dublin Castle where media tents and crowd control barriers had been erected.

It was there where the official announcements were made, along with live radio and TV broadcasts from national broadcaster RTE. 

Yes campaigner Aoife O’Ceallachain had waited all day for the announcement, arriving at the castle at midday to reserve a space near the front.

Her plans for after the final results?

“Cry, eat pizza and go to bed,” she said.

Like many other Irish women, she hadn’t slept with worry over the last few weeks.

Source: Al Jazeera