Abortion referendum: Ireland on brink of history as ‘No’ campaign concedes defeat

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"Her story was one that captured the realities of what the Eighth Amendment meant in a material, tangible way", he said.

The first to declare was Galway East, a traditionally conservative constituency in the west that nonetheless returned a large majority for repealing the abortion ban by a?60.2 percent to 39.8 percent vote.

Following the Irish vote, Ms Mordaunt - who is responsible for the women and equalities brief in Government - said the referendum signalled a "historic and great day for Ireland" and a "hopeful one for Northern Ireland".

"But she said "I'm sorry, unfortunately it's a Catholic country" and it's the law that they can't abort when the foetus is live". I'd be surprised if we haven't undergone the same sort of change there.

"To see an overwhelming "yes" vote is incredible", Coogan told CTV News Channel on Saturday from Ireland.

Ailbhe Smyth, 71, co-director of the official Together for Yes campaign, said real-life testimonies from women affected by the ban had helped swing the vote. In 2012, the death of 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar - who died from miscarriage complications after being denied an abortion in the country - became a catalyst for the Irish abortion rights movement.

The Lib Dem leader said: "Since there is, effectively, direct rule from Westminster, the government has responsibility and it can and should take the opportunity to deal with this issue properly".

She said she was ostracised by her friends and the Church when she got pregnant outside of marriage as a teenager 46 years ago. As a result, Irish women would wished to terminate their pregnancies had to seek illegal options within the country - at the risk of being thrown in jail for 14 years - or travel overseas.

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The referendum was set to be a landslide vote in favour of overturning some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

Reform in Ireland also raised the prospect that women in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal, may start travelling south of the border.

Chants of "Yes we did" rose from the crowd as the Referendum Commission's Returning Officer Barry Ryan announced the final results. Polls had given the pro-repeal "yes" side a small lead, but suggested the contest would be close.

Yes vote supporters celebrate as the results in the Irish referendum on the 8th amendment concerning the country's abortion laws takes place. The group said on its website that the referendum's outcome was a "tragedy of historic proportions," but McGuirk said the vote must be respected. "We are not a divided country", he said.

Mrs Morgan and three other former holders of the women and equalities role - Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Maria Miller - all back Ms Mordaunt in support for reform in Northern Ireland, the Sunday Times reported.

The proposed legislation will allow abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and up to the 24th week in exceptional circumstances.

Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said she is confident legislation can be approved by parliament and put in place before the end of the year.