Varadkar says 'quiet revolution' brought about Yes vote

By Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent

*At the national count centre in Dublin Castle*

The Government have pledged to introduce legislation to reform Ireland's abortion laws by the end of the year, saying a "quiet revolution" brought about the landslide Yes vote.

A final count is expected by the late afternoon, but tallies and some details from around the country coupled with exit polls suggest the Yes vote will be as high as 68%. It is likely to be higher in urban areas, with some tallies for parts of Dublin putting the Yes vote even at around 80%.

Fianna Fáil have been damaged with the huge Yes result, after 31 of their TDs and senators backed the No campaign. Other No campaigners are also laying out markers for the next political battle, pledging to block or stall any government legislation to liberalise the abortion laws.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the resounding Yes vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment is a “culmination of a quiet revolution” over the last 10 or 20 years.

He also praised the brave women and men of Ireland who he said had told their stories and had the most influence on the vote.

Speaking as counting continued across the country, Mr Varadkar said that the large Yes vote had given the Government a mandate now to change the laws.

He said he hoped the Government could reform the abortion laws now before the end of the year.

“Many brave women and men who told their personal stories on how the Eighth Amendment impacted on them,” he said.

Speaking at the RDS count centre in Dublin city centre, a relieved Health Minister Simon Harris said he intended to, as early as next week, make a request to Cabinet to begin the process of implementing the government's plan to allow terminations up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. He told crowds applauding and praising him: “Today is a hugely significant day for our country, the people of Ireland have clearly thought about this issue at great length and for a significant period of time and now they have answered that question and they have answered it in a resounding manner. They have said they want to live in a country that treats women with compassion.”

The Fine Gael minister added: “Under the Eighth Amendment women in crisis pregnancy have been told - take the plane, take the boat. Today we tell them - take our hand.”

Leading opposition figures have also pledged to row in behind the abortion reform proposals. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald believes that the legislation could be passed immediately after the summer.

"Can I say given the fact the people have now spoken, those who wished not to see a referendum happen at all, I think now need to just reconcile themselves with the considered and decided position of the people, and we need to legislate and we need to do so not in haste but certainly not (with) any delay.

"I personally think there is no reason why we can't move quite speedily," she said when asked about an October deadline.

"This legislation framework must be the most scrutinised in Irish history... There's been an entire eight weeks in around the parameters of it, so I see no reason for a delay, I see no reason (not) to act, particularly as this issue is one that has been marked historically by horrific delay and cowardice frankly by the Irish political class," Ms McDonald said.

Leading No campaigner Senator Ronan Mullen said that he would oppose the legislation passing through the Oireachtas. Independent TD Mattie McGrath also said he had problems with it.

Nonetheless, a lot of focus has also turned to Fianna Fáil, many of whose TDs and senators opposed the referendum.

While leader Micheál Martin has been praised for backing the Yes side, a number of leading party TDs have now conceded that they will support any legislation on the reforms.

Cork South Central's Michael McGrath told RTE that people had voted in full knowledge of the legislation and 12-week proposal. He said he woud not oppose the Bill, indicating that he and other Fianna Fáil TDs may abstain in any Oireachtas vote.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is expected at Dublin Castle shortly as attention turns to the official count results as they come in. A final vote could be announced around 4pm.

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