Ireland’s prime minister on Saturday hailed the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in what was once one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries after a landslide referendum vote to liberalize highly restrictive laws on abortion.
Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation backed the change 2-to-1, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote had predicted, and allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned to repeal the laws, had called the vote a once-in-a-generation chance and voters responded by turning out in droves. A turnout of 64 percent was one of the highest for a referendum.
“Today is an historic day for Ireland. A quiet revolution has taken place,” Varadkar, who became Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister last year, said in a speech after the vote.
The outcome is a new milestone on a path of change for a country which only legalized divorce by a razor thin majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years ago.
Reform in Ireland also raised the prospect that women in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal, may start traveling south of the border.
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