Voters were deciding whether to repeal the eighth amendment of the country’s constitution, which recognises the equal right to life of both mother and unborn child, effectively banning terminations.
This amendment has been in place since 1983, and the campaign to repeal it rapidly picked up steam in recent years, spurred on by cases such as the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012.
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Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said the referendum result marked “the day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light”, and he hailed the vote as a “quiet revolution”.
Repealing the amendment will allow the Irish government to legislate on abortion as they see fit, most likely allowing terminations within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The two biggest parties in the country, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, allowed members to take a free position on the issue, while Sinn Fein and Labour officially backed a Yes vote.
You can follow the day’s events here and on our Facebook group.
Hello, and welcome to the Independent's live blog, covering the upcoming referendum on abortion in Ireland. People will be going to the polls on 25 May to decide whether the eighth amendment of the country's constitution - which effectively bans abortion - should be repealed.
I'm Ben Kelly, originally from Northern Ireland, but working in London, and I'll be covering the campaign, and all the debate and discussion around it on this thread across the next six weeks. I'll also be in Dublin on the weekend of the referendum itself, reporting from there.
So save the page, check back in with us, and keep across everything that's happening in this major political campaign.
Facebook to trial advert transparency in Ireland for referendum
Facebook will trial a new 'View Ads' tool which it hopes will allow transparency around political advertising in the run up to the abortion referendum.
It allows users to view all the ads that a particular advertiser is running in the country. Joel Kaplan, the company's vice president for global policy, told an Irish government committee on Tuesday that it would be rolled out from 25 April.
Following a recent climate of foreign interference in national elections, there has been concern that both pro-life and pro-choice advocates from around the world would seek to unduly influence the campaign.
Ireland is the second country where the system has been trialled, after a successful test in Canada, before an expected global roll out.
Support at Selfridges London
Irish designer Richard Malone has taken over a window at Selfridges on London's Oxford Street and is decorating it with messages supporting Repeal the 8th
A new poll on the eighth amendment published in today's Irish Times shows 47% of people would vote to Repeal, while 28% would vote to Retain.
This represents a drop in Repeal's lead, down from 62% in the last poll by Ipsos MORI for the paper in December 2017.
By contrast, at this point in the same sex marriage referendum campaign, the Yes side was showing leads of around 75%, and eventually went on to win with 62% of the vote.
If this referendum follows a similar pattern, Repeal's lead could be reduced further still, and a much closer result could be expected.
Repeal campaigners urge 'compassion'
The past 24 hours have seen Sinn Fein and Labour, the two parties officially supporting a Repeal vote, begin to put up their posters in Ireland.
It's notable that both have urged 'compassion' in encouraging people to vote Repeal. Sinn Fein have also been emphasising a 'trust women' slogan, which is complemented by the prominence of their new President Mary Lou McDonald on posters.
Taoiseach calls for Yes vote
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called for a Yes vote in the referendum to Repeal the 8th, at an event in Dublin this morning.
He has pointed out that the abortion ban does not stop women getting abortions, but rather sends them abroad to do so, at a rate of nine per day. He has tweeted: 'The 8th amendment does not prevent abortion. It just let’s us sweep it under the carpet. No more.'
The Taoiseach - himself a trained doctor - has sought to alleviate fears around the consequences of a Yes vote, saying that a 72 hour reflection period would be necessary before a termination, and that terminations beyond 12 weeks would remain illegal except in very specific circumstances.
He was joined at the event by his minister for health Simon Harris, and culture for culture Josepha Madigan.
Catholic church attacked with anti-abortion graffiti
Anti-abortion graffiti has been sprayed on a Catholic church in Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland, after a similar attack on a cathedral in Armagh.
The messages sprayed included 'Save the 8th Save Ireland', referred to Sinn Fein 'Irish baby killers', and said 'only DUP speaks for Irish unborn'.
Sinn Fein described the incident as 'disgraceful' and 'a sectarian hate crime'. While the upcoming referendum only affects the Republic of Ireland, the party is active across the island, and are tasked with leading a largely Catholic base to support their stance for a Yes vote.
The incident has been condemned by local figures across the political divide, including the candidates for the West Tyrone by-election in May.
No posters dominate in Co. Donegal
I spent the past weekend in Donegal, the most northerly county in Ireland, and noted an overwhelming dominance of No posters, urging voters not to repeal the eighth in the referendum. They were on almost every main road, with several posted at traffic lights or roundabouts.
After travelling from Derry to Letterkenny, on to Glenveagh and back again, I didn't see a single Yes poster supporting repeal of the eighth.
The posters use traditional anti-abortion imagery and language, and largely warn against the government's 12 week limit proposal - suggesting a Yes vote will lead to terminations at later points in the future. The four images below were all taken outside Letterkenny hospital, a central location in the area.
It's worth noting that the two constituencies of Donegal voted to insert the eighth amendment into the constitution by 82% in the referendum of 1983, which effectively enforced the ban on abortion, showing the area to be deeply conservative on this issue.
By contrast, Donegal constituencies voted by just over 50% for same-sex marriage in 2015, showing that they were about 10% less supportive of the measure than the country as a whole. Despite much higher levels of support in Dublin and other urban areas, getting those rural counties just over the 50% line was crucial to passing the referendum nationally.
So while this is reflective of just one county, it should be maintained that Donegal is representative of rural Ireland, which could well carry the No campaign to victory.
Abortion law in Northern Ireland should be changed, report says
Abortion should be permitted in cases of fatal fetal abnormality in Northern Ireland, a working group has concluded.
The report, commissioned in 2016 by the health and justice ministers at Stormont, has been published today.
The working group report recommends "that a change is made to abortion law to provide for termination of pregnancy where the abnormality is of such a nature as to be likely to cause death either before birth, during birth or in the early period after birth".
Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, where it is a devolved issue for the Assembly to legislate on. It is the only part of the UK with such a restrictive law.
The upcoming referendum in the Republic of Ireland will not affect Northern Ireland, but it is notable that the publication of this report has come during the campaign on the other side of the border.
Referendum Commission launch official website
The Referendum Commission of Ireland has launched an official website to inform voters about the details of the upcoming vote.
It explains the proposal to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution and replace it with a new article stating that 'provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy'.
It includes an independent report into the effect of each possible result, explaining the legal effect of both a Yes and No vote.
The website includes an image of the official ballot paper, showing the options voters will be faced with on 25 May.
The information on the website will also be delivered in the form of a booklet to every household across Ireland.
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