Exit polls suggest landslide vote for reform in Irish abortion referendum

Ireland's historic abortion referendum looks to have delivered a landslide win for those advocating liberalisation, after two major exit polls recorded huge victory margins.

One poll by national broadcaster RTE suggested almost 70% of the electorate have voted to end the country's all but blanket ban on terminations, with another, by The Irish Times, recording 68% in favour of reform.

Counting does not begin until Saturday morning, with a formal result not due until later in the day, but the data suggests Ireland is on the cusp of a defining moment in its social history.

Reacting to the exit polls, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a vocal proponent of liberalisation, tweeted: "Thank you to everyone who voted today. Democracy in action. It's looking like we will make history tomorrow."

Thousands of Irish citizens living overseas travelled home in droves to exercise their democratic right on the emotive issue.

The vote saw citizens effectively opt to either retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment of the state's constitution, which prohibits terminations unless a mother's life is in danger.

The specific question people were asked was whether they wanted to see the Eighth Amendment replaced with wording in the constitution that would hand politicians the responsibility to set future laws on abortion, unhindered by constitutional strictures.

If the Yes vote is confirmed, the Irish Government intends to legislate by the end of the year to make it relatively easy for a woman to obtain the procedure in early pregnancy.

Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

The Behaviour & Attitudes poll for RTE surveyed 3,800 people at 175 polling stations across the country.

With a margin of error of +/- 1.6%, 69.4% voted to repeal the Eight Amendment of the constitution while 30.6% voted No.

The exit poll conducted for The Irish Times indicated a 68% to 32% Yes vote.

That poll saw 4,000 voters interviewed by Ipsos/MRBI as they left 160 polling stations on Friday.

The margin of error is estimated at +/- 1.5%, the newspaper said.

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