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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 24 January, 2020

'Women in crisis pregnancy have been told take the boat... today we tell them: take our hand'

Leading political figures have reacted to what appears to be an overwhelming Yes vote.

From L to R: Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Kate O'Connell TD in the RDS.
From L to R: Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Kate O'Connell TD in the RDS.
Image: Leah Farrell/

LEADING POLITICAL FIGURES have reacted to what appears to be an overwhelming Yes vote on whether or not to Repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution.

Tallies this morning from count centres across the country have chimed in with two exit polls last night showing an overwhelming majority for a Yes vote.

Reacting to the news today in the RDS, which is acting as the main Dublin count centre, Health Minister Simon Harris – who was one of the leading political figures advocating for a Yes vote – said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the result.

“I think everybody is. I think everybody is pleasantly surprised. I think the people voted this way after they carefully considered all the issues,” he said.

He said the people of Ireland have said they “want to live in a country that treats women with compassion” and that they voted after they had carefully considered all the issues.

“Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis pregnancy have been told take the plane, take the boat, today we tell them; take our hand.

Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis have been told you’re on your own, today we say; we will stand with you.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also spoke today from the RDS, and welcomed the result.

“What we’ve seen today is the culmination of a quiet revolution that has taken place in Ireland over the past 10-20 years,” he said.

“We trust women, and we respect them to make the right decisions for their healthcare… this gives the government the mandate.

“Most of all it was the very many brave women and men who told their stories as to how the Eighth Amendment had impacted on them,” he said, when asked about what influenced voters.

They allowed us a nation to understand how this hard law created so many hard cases.

Varadkar said that he’d have the legislation through “quicker if he could”, and said it will take another six months for the legislation to be enacted.

“My intention is to bring in legislation exactly on the lines of what is in the general scheme,” he said.


Opposition party leaders also reacted warmly to the result.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Marian Finucane, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said:

“I think lots of us were probably guilty of poll watching.. And there was a certain sense of not taking anything for granted,” she said.

McDonald said that particular credit was due to the women and their families who “came forward and told their stories”.

The Sinn Féin leader was also questioned in relation to her party TDs Carol Nolan and and Peadar Tóibín – both of whom campaigned for a No vote, going against the official party line.

“The difference arises from the fact that Sinn Féin has a longstanding policy of repealing the Eighth,” said McDonald.

“Both Carol and Peadar have a different view on these matters.”

“Clearly you’ll understand that as the leader of Sinn Féin I’ll have to ensure that the democratic positions of the party are represented and upheld,” she said.

Particularly where it comes to casting votes in parliament where the law is made… So I hope that Peadar and Carol will accept the verdict of the people today and I will have no reason to believe they won’t.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also faced questions over his own party – with over half of his TDs having advocated for a No vote.

“I think to be fair the vast majority were fine to be honest… There’s a continuum on this issue,” he said.

“So with people in party voting No.. they had no issue with me at all voting Yes,” he said.

Martin said that it was always his belief that the result of the referendum would settle the matter definitely.

He felt “the result would give a clear and definitive pointer of what the people wanted”.

“It was a matter of continuing to lead from the front,” he said.

Martin said that the overwhelming strength of the Yes vote was something he could take comfort from.

The world is changing and certainly there’s a force coming to have a very significant impact particularly in referendums.

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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