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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Sam Boal/ Yes campaigners celebrating at the RDS this moening.
repealing the eighth

The results are in and the country has voted YES - Here's what happens now

The final results have just been announced, with the Yes side securing the majority vote.

THE RESULTS ARE in and Ireland has voted Yes to Repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Voters turned out in constituencies across the country to vote in the historic referendum on whether or not to remove the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

With all the constituencies counted, final results show that Ireland voted  by 66.4.% to 33.6% to remove the amendment with more than two million votes cast.

The result was a landslide victory for the Yes campaign, with over two to one of voters having cast their ballots in favour of repeal.

But what does this mean? What happens next?

Repeal of the Eighth Amendment

So Ireland has voted to Repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

In effect, the country has voted to introduce the 36th Amendment of the Constitution.

This allows the existing Article 40.3.3 – which contains the Eighth Amendment (right to life of the unborn), 13th Amendment (right to information about seeking a termination), and 14th Amendment (right to travel for a termination) – to be replaced with the line:

Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

It’s the referendum returning officer’s job now to draw up a provisional referendum certificate, which states the overall result.

This certificate will then be published in the Irish State Gazette (Iris Oifigiúil).

From this point, anyone who wants to legally challenge this certificate has to do so in the High Court within seven days of it being published.

If no challenges are mounted – or if the legal challenges are overcome, the final referendum certificate is issued and the president will sign the amendment into law.

So will there be legal challenges to the result? 

Due to the divisive nature of the referendum, and passionately held views on both sides – the result could be challenged in court.

However, the victory for the Yes side was so comprehensive it would be unlikely that the courts would consider challenge (but the issuing of the final certificate could still be delayed if a challenge is mounted)

No referendum has ever been successfully legally challenged in the history of the Irish state.

After 2015′s same-sex marriage referendum, legal challenges were brought against the Yes result. The challenges were rejected by the High Court and later the Court of Appeal.

They were then thrown out by the Supreme Court.

After the challenges were rejected in court, the president signed the Marriage Equality Bill into law on 29 August – almost three months after the referendum.

For 2012′s Children’s Referendum – it took over two years for the amendment on children’s rights to be brought into law, due to legal challenges.

From the point of view of prominent No campaigners, Save The 8th’s spokesperson John McGuirk recently told that his group would respect the referendum result.

“Respecting the result, however, does not mean waking up one morning and suddenly accepting that the other side were right,” he said.

“It does mean that into the future, I will continue to believe that abortion is wrong, and I believe that the vast majority of people who vote No will continue to believe that.

I’m sure that they will continue to campaign in the appropriate manners politically to affect the abortion law but of course we will accept the upcoming referendum result.

So once the Constitution is officially changed, will abortion automatically be legal?

Once the 36th Amendment comes into effect and the Eighth is Repealed, the laws governing abortion in Ireland will revert to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013).

This means abortion will remain illegal except in extremely limited circumstances – where there is a real risk to the life of the pregnant woman.

The law will remain that way until the government’s proposed legislation passes through the Oireachtas and is made law.

When will the new laws around abortion come into effect? 

Once the Constitution is amended, the Oireachtas will begin debating and progressing the government’s proposed Bill To Regulate Termination of Pregnancy.

The government has committed to publishing its Bill before the summer recess in August, with Leo Varadkar saying he hopes to have the laws enacted by the end of the year.

You can view what those proposed laws say about abortion here.

Speaking today, 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.

If any legal challenges arise, it is unclear if the government will have to hold off on introducing the legislation into the Dáil (they may be able to begin debating the laws, but will not be able to pass it fully through the Oireachtas until the constitutional change is made law).

Once the Bill To Regulate Termination of Pregnancy becomes law, abortion under the terms laid out will be legal in Ireland.

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