Counting of ballots begins as polls indicate landslide support to repeal ban on abortion

Counting of ballots in the abortion referendum has commenced this morning after two exit polls carried out last night predicted a landslide victory for the Yes campaign.

RTÉ and Irish Times exit polls predicted a 69-31% and 68-32% vote in favour of repealing the Eight Amendment 35 years after the divisive abortion ban was introduced.

A breakdown of the RTÉ poll projected that 65.9% of men voted Yes, with 72.1% women voting in favour of repeal, while among the 18-24 age group, the Yes vote is projected at 87.6%, and for 25-34 year-olds it is 84.6%.

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.

76% of those surveyed in the poll said they were always going to vote yes; 8% said Savita Halappanavar's death in 2012 convinced them; 1% said it was following last year's citizens' assembly; 1% said after last year's cross-party Oireachtas committee on the eighth amendment; and 12% said it was during the eight week referendum campaign.

Importantly, 43% said people's personal stories in the media convinced them; 34% said experiences of people they knew; 10% said campaign posters; 7% said direct contact with campaigners; and 24% said 'other' factors

Last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said history will be made today after yesterday's "democracy in action" while Health Minister Simon Harris said he hopes he will be "waking up to a country that is more compassionate, careful and respectful".

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he was "proud to be Irish" after the polls indicated "a stunning result that will bring about a fundamental change for the better".

Leading members of the no campaign conceded defeat in the country’s abortion referendum before polls even closed yesterday, amid stronger-than-expected voter turnout.

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.

The LoveBoth campaign said the results of the exit polls “paint a bleak picture for retention of the Eighth Amendment.”

Spokesperson Dr Ruth Cullen said: “If the exit polls are borne out today, it will represent a sea-change on abortion in Ireland and sadly pave the way for an abortion regime that has nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with abortion on demand.

"It’s most regrettable the Taoiseach, Minister for Health and some leading medics received a free pass from scrutiny in pushing for abortion.

"We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances," she said.

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

Ballot boxes from more than 6,500 stations across the country will be opened this morning and it is expected the count will be complete by this afternoon before the official result is announced in Dublin Castle.

- Digital Desk

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