Ireland celebrates historic abortion referendum result: 'We're repairing our relationship with women'

Ben Kelly

Euphoric supporters of the Yes vote in Ireland’s historic referendum on repealing the country’s eighth amendment have spoken of their joy after an overwhelming victory that will effectively end its longstanding ban on abortion.

Outside the main Dublin count centre at the RDS Arena, politicians and activists gathered alongside general well-wishers. Some were in Repeal jumpers, or still wearing badges and stickers left over from the day of the vote – others were simply out to enjoy a sunny day in the city, and had come along to soak up the atmosphere.

A group of four campaigners appeared in high spirits as they waited for results outside. Aoife O’Hagan, 24, insisted it was undoubtedly the grassroots campaign which had swayed it, and people standing nearby nodded in agreement.

“There’s men and women who have been at this since 1983,” she said, referring to the year the eighth amendment was inserted to the constitution.

“My own mother was on the first march against this, and those people have never stopped since.”

Every so often, a result will be called out, or a Together For Yes director will arrive, and a cheer goes up. Ailbhe Smyth, who worked tirelessly as a figurehead for the campaign, is given a hero’s welcome, and applause fills the RDS hall for several minutes. One volunteer is visibly in tears.

Grainne Daley, 37, was sat in the car park outside with a girl of no more than five.

“She’s my friend’s daughter,” she explains. “I’m looking after her, I said, we’re going to make history – she said, can we get ice cream?” Did she cast her Yes vote with the future of such little girls in mind? “Oh yes, it’s for a better Ireland.”

Around the areas where people have gathered, men and women alike are wearing stickers bearing the Repeal slogan – one girl wears a “Gays for Yasss” badge. There is a distinct sense this referendum was not won by pro-choice campaigners alone, but by a broader spectrum of the population.

Leness Falls, 27, believes this has been a long time coming.

“Many of the people who voted Yes were doing so thinking about the Magdalen laundries, and I know people who were voting for their own mothers, who they had never met, who went through horrendous experiences there,” she says.

“For me, it’s the beginning of reparations in Ireland. We’re repairing our relationship with women so we can have a better Ireland.”

And they have come to do so from far and wide. Karen Twomey, 32, from the Repeal Global movement, estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 people have travelled home to vote Yes.

“I even heard of someone who needed £1,200 for a flight back from Abu Dhabi yesterday and within an hour it was raised online,” she said.

Like many others, she is now happy to admit she always thought this would be the result.

“When you think that ten women every day are going abroad for abortions, for 35 years, and you think that everybody knows somebody, of course it was going to be a Yes,” she says.

On Dame Street, in the heart of Dublin, a large group of Repeal voters are gathered on the street having photos taken, and with ever car that goes by there’s a pump of the horn, and a cheer goes up along the street.

A bemused stag party – one of many who descend upon this city every weekend – look on from a nearby pub, spilling over with Saturday drinkers.

Dublin is a city renowned for its happy and jovial disposition. Today, it had extra reason for it.