#8thRef Latest: 'We will make history' says Taoiseach as exit polls predict two-thirds majority for Yes side

Update Saturday, 12.01pm: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said history will be made on Saturday after it was predicted Ireland will vote emphatically to remove the Eighth Amendment 35 years after the divisive abortion ban was introduced.

In a short statement last night after the RTÉ and Irish Times exit polls predicted a 69-31% and 68-32% victory for the Yes campaign respectively, Mr Varadkar said he believes change is now coming to this country.

"Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It’s looking like we will make history tomorrow," he wrote on Twitter.

In a similar statement on the same website, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin threw down the gauntlet to pro-life opponents within his own party who have sought to undermine Mr Martin's decision to publicly and consistently back the yes campaign.

Saying the Government should now move quickly to introduce the planned 12 weeks unrestricted abortion laws in the event of a yes vote, Mr Martin said: "With exit polls published, it looks like #8thRef has been emphatically passed.

"Important though that we respect and count every vote. If the exit polls are accurate, the view of our Republic is clear and we as an Oireachtas should move efficiently to enact the will of our people."

The comment is likely to come into sharp focus in the coming days as Mr Martin seeks to reclaim complete control of his party after more than half of his TDs publicly opposed his decision to support repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Meanwhile, in another statement last night, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said simply "Ireland is changing".

“I want to thank Sinn Féin members from across Ireland and all those who campaigned for a Yes vote and for the leadership of the Together for Yes Group.

“This campaign was marked by the woman who came forward to share their personal stories of dealing with tragic circumstances.

"The campaign created a space for Ireland, North and South, to look at the experiences of women and I believe that we are all better for that. The voices of these women have been heard and can no longer be silenced by guilt or neglected by Government."

“Ireland is changing and this is evident in the vibrant Yes campaign headed up by women and young people.

“I want to thank each and every one who voted and campaigned for Yes," Ms McDonald said.

Health Minister Simon Harris - who was among the most high-profile frontline political campaigners for a yes vote - said he hopes he will be "waking up to a country that is more compassionate, careful and respectful" after a landslide exit poll prediction victory for the yes campaign.

"I will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful.

"It has been an honour to be on this journey with you and to work #togetherforyes . See you all tomorrow!", he wrote on Twitter.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone - who was one of the main Government champions of an abortion referendum - said she believes the exit poll landslide yes victory tonight will be repeated in Saturday's official counts.

The unaligned Independent TD warned against presuming the exit polls are 100% accurate.

However, two years on from demanded a citizens assembly and Oireachtas cross-party committee examine the abortion question before a referendum was held - a move designed to give people space to assess the issue but which was criticised as a delaying tactic by others - Ms Zappone said she is "hopeful" change has finally arrived.

"Exit polls from RTÉ and the Irish Times are a confidence boost that Irish voters have once again responded with compassion and solidarity. I remain very hopeful that count centres across the country will turn these predictions into an official result.

"I will spend the day with fellow campaigners at the Dublin South West count in City west, the Dublin City count at the RDS and will attend the declaration of the official national result at Dublin Castle.

"It will be an emotional, busy and historic day."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said "there seems to be little doubt that people across the country have voted to meet the needs of women with care and compassion, at home", adding:

"After 35 long years, it seems Ireland has finally turned the page on a shameful chapter in its history."

A number of other parties also publicly welcomed the exit poll predictions, with the Social Democrats' co-leader Catherine Murphy saying the potential result show Ireland has "taken on board the clear message that the eighth amendment harms women and must be removed from our constitution".

"While we await the counting of votes tomorrow, we are very encouraged by these early signals showing Irish people have understood the need to vote yes so that we can provide women with the healthcare they need in a compassionate, caring and medically safe system.

"Significant and positive change is within our grasp," she said.

Update 11.32pm: Exit polls predict landslide victory for Yes campaign

A second exit poll, carried out for RTÉ, has tonight projected a Yes vote of 69.4% with a No Vote of 30.6% in today's referendum on the 8th Amendment.

The size of the margin has confounded many in the campaigns, who thought the gap was much narrower.

The sample size for the RTÉ vote was 3,800 with a margin of error of +/- 1.6%.

The exit poll was conducted by RTÉ in conjunction with a number of Irish universities and was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes.

A breakdown of the poll projected that 65.9% of men voted Yes, with 72.1% women voting in favour of repeal.

Among the 18-24 age group, the Yes vote is projected at 87.6%, while for 25-34 year-olds it is 84.6%.

Further results and demographic breakdowns to be released at 8am tomorrow.

A separate exit poll, published by the Irish Times earlier this evening, suggested that the margin of victory for the Yes side in today’s referendum will be 68% to 32%.

Earlier: First exit poll predicts 'landslide' victory for Yes campaign

By Juno McEnroe, Elaine Loughlin and Daniel McConnell

The country has decided by a stunning majority to repeal the controversial Constitutional ban on abortion, an exit poll has predicted.

Leading members of the No campaign conceded defeat in the country's abortion referendum before polls even closed at 10pm, amid stronger than expected voter turnout.

As counting of ballots commences at 9am this morning, the high turnout meant the proposal to remove the controversial Eighth Amendment from the Constitution looks set to be passed.

The country has decided by a stunning majority to repeal the controversial Constitutional ban on abortion, an exit poll has predicted.

One of two exit polls published tonight suggested the country voted by a stunning majority to Repeal the Eighth.

The poll, published by the Irish Times, suggested that the margin of victory for the Yes side in today’s referendum will be 68% to 32%.

It found the highest Yes vote was in Dublin, where 77% of voters backed the proposals, the poll predicted.

The poll suggested that the margin of victory in the rest of Leinster outside Dublin will be 66% to 34%, while Munster will also break 66-34 in favour of repeal.

Women in Cork turn out to vote earlier today.

Even Connacht-Ulster, expected to be the bulwark of the anti-repeal vote, voted in favour of the constitutional change by 59% to 41%, the poll finds.

The poll also finds that women voted in favour of the proposal by a massve margin, with 70% voting in favour and 30% voting against. Support amongst men was weaker, though still convincing, at 65% to 35%.

Admitting they were outgunned during the campaign, No campaigners have warned however they will fight the proposal to legalise abortions as proposed when the legislation goes through the Oireachtas.

Huge turnouts in Dublin, Cork and other urban areas, helped by glorious sunshine today from early morning gave a distinct advantage to the Yes campaign.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he hope he will be "waking up to a country that is more compassionate, careful and respectful" after a landslide exit poll prediction victory for the Yes campaign.

In a message on social media website Twitter just before 11pm tonight, Mr Harris made no direct mention of the Irish Times/Ipsos poll which has predicted a massive 68-32% vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

However, in a clear indication of his hope the exit poll result will be mirrored in the official count on Saturday, Mr Harris said he will go to sleep tonight confident that 35 years after the Eighth Amendment was introduced, a victory for the yes campaign is within reach.

"I will sleep tonight in the hope of waking up to a country that is more compassionate, more caring and more respectful.

"It has been an honour to be on this journey with you and to work #togetherforyes . See you all tomorrow!", he wrote.

Leading No campaigner, NUI Senator Ronan Mullen, said that it was likely the Yes side would win, and quite “strongly” in urban areas. However, there were pockets of rural areas that would oppose the removal of the Eighth Amendment, he believed.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said:

This has united the [pro-life] movement. Because we know what is next, the legislation. That will be our focus now. And that states 'may' as opposed to 'shall'. So we will try and persuade them [the government] and work on that.

Mr Mullen did say that the battleground will now be on trying to reduce the 12-week limit for abortions .

The Senator made his comments mid-afternoon, half way through polling. He also noted that momentum had been with the Yes side in the closing week of the campaign, particularly during the TV debates.

Fianna Fail TD Eamon O'Cuiv also conceded the Yes would comfortably win.

"I'd imagine that the Yes side is going win. I'd expect them to win handsomely," he told the Irish Examiner.

He said his own constituency's result would equate to the rest of the country as it as the perfect mix of rural and urban. Asked why the Yes side were likely to win, he answered:

"They have had more firepower, more political leaders,” he said. The former minister predicted the Yes side would get around 58%.

Asked if he would accept the will of the people, the former deputy Fianna Fail leader said: "The will of the people will b e that they may ring in legislation.”

Health Minister Simon Harris said he was encouraged by the high turnout from early on in the day and also the fact that so many people had made the journey home to vote.

Speaking in Cork, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who advocated for a Yes vote against the wishes of many in his party, said he was confident of winning.

I get the feeling that the ‘Don’t knows’ will break down in favour of Yes, so I think the Yes will win it. But that said, I have to acknowledge there are reluctant yeses and reluctant nos, he said.

“I think the people in the current debate have a far greater sense of the complexity of life itself.

Just before polls closed at 10pm, turnout was reported to be high across much of the country, with some areas in Dublin exceeding 70%, well ahead of recent referendums.

- Digital Desk

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