Ireland votes to legalise abortion in landslide ‘Yes’ victory: exit polls

Polling stations across Limerick close with steady voter turnout reported

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Ireland will hold an historic referendum on liberalising its abortion law, considered one of the strictest laws in Europe.

Among the youngest voters, support for the change was overwhelming - the poll finds that 87 per cent of those aged between 18-24 voted for repeal.

The massive margin suggested by the exit poll will strengthen the hand of the Government when it brings the promised legislation to the Dáil in the autumn.

Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first to arrive at a church polling station in Dublin.

Irish citizens voted on Friday over whether or not to lift the ban on abortion in the country, and exit polls are showing that the bid to allow the practice appears to have been quite successful.

"I took it really personally, this vote, and said I'm going to come out today and vote for what I believe in".

An official announcement is due to be made at Dublin Castle in the mid to late afternoon.

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Colm O'Gorman, the head of Amnesty International in Ireland, which campaigned for the yes vote, said, while the expectations had been that Saturday's count would be close, attitude surveys it had conducted in 2015 had shown deep changes in thinking on abortion.

Although the point at which a pregnancy is considered "viable" - that is, that the baby could potentially survive outside the womb - differs from country to country, it's most often put at 21-23 weeks, making the likelihood that Halappanavar's foetus, at just 17 weeks, would have survived birth at the point that doctors were fruitlessly attempting to save it near zero. However, the Roman Catholic Church's influence has waned in recent years following a series of child sex abuse scandals.

"The fact that it's illegal for somebody in Ireland to seek medical treatment, having to travel outside the country and to feel that guilt, shame and isolation, it's absolutely shocking", said Belinda Nugent, 43, a community activist voting in north Dublin.

"I have asked the NCCA to consider the experience and reality of RSE as delivered in schools, the supports and professional development opportunities provided for teachers".

Around 66,000 people were eligible to vote in rural Limerick, with a further 73,000 entitled to have their say in Limerick city.

50-year-old Irish voter Finbar O'Regan told his own story, of his mother being sent away to England to give birth to him and have him adopted rather than aborted.

"I'm a staunch No".

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Canvassers were out on the city's streets holding up signs and wearing t-shirts with campaign slogans.

The eighth amendment to the Irish constitution was installed following a 1983 referendum which approved outlawing abortion. "No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach's promises in this regard" she added.

Three years on, the country yesterday (May 25) headed to the polls again, in a bid to overturn a law restricting access to abortion in the country.

Since 1983, around 170,000 Irish women have gone overseas for terminations.

Since 2013, terminations have only been allowed in Ireland when the life of the mother is at risk, including from suicide.

Abortion be legal for women in their first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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