Some Irish-Canadian residents celebrate Irish abortion referendum result

The country is set to vote on the abortion issue on Friday

"Not taking anything for granted, of course, but quietly confident", Varadkar said.

Together For Yes, the umbrella group leading the campaign for an affirmative vote, has used the slogan "trust women" to argue that they should be allowed to make important decisions about their own lives and families.

"What we have done is begin to dismantle the shame and stigma that was around this issue for so many years".

While some countries have conditions such as requiring authorisation by one or more doctors in place, these are not always a barrier in practice, she said.

"We revealed a changed Ireland to the world and, more than that, I think we lit a beacon of hope for countries all over the world where people are working toward similar change", she said.

About 80% of Irish people described themselves as Catholic in the last census in 2016. It would bring Ireland into line with the majority of European countries and allow for abortion on request up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

Ireland now does not allow abortions unless the mother's life is in danger.

Setting out Labour's position, shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said: "Fifty years ago, abortion was decriminalised under a Labour government but women in Northern Ireland are still denied this fundamental right, having to travel to mainland United Kingdom or faced with potential prosecution and imprisonment at home". There would also be an exception in cases of fatal fetal abnormality.

In recent years, however, the country has gone through significant secularization, even more so after a 2015 referendum endorsed same-sex marriage. More than 3,000 women travel overseas every year to have the procedure legally, often in countries like England and Wales.

Still, many who voted in favor of same-sex marriage and laws easing rules around abortion - such as allowing women to travel overseas to get it - found the latest measure a step too far. The government has said that general practitioners - doctors who are the first stop for patients - will be asked to provide abortions, although they will still be allowed to conscientiously object to terminations at their clinics.

The amendment, or article 40.3.3 of the constitution, gives unborn foetuses and pregnant mothers an equal right to life - and is, in effect, a ban on abortion.

Reports from polling stations around the country indicated high turnout.

Dr Andrew O'Regan said abortion meant ending the life of a patient
Image Dr Andrew O'Regan says abortion means ending the life of a patient

"We're a Roman Catholic nation".

If the ban is scrapped, the government plans to vote on a new law that was proposed by the Citizen's Assembly, a public body established to address moral and ethical issues in Ireland. "Go over to England and get it done there, not here".

Abortions would be accessible to women who are in their first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Leader of the main opposition party, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin, voted to repeal in his constituency in Cork while Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald also cast a Yes vote in Dublin.

"Overjoyed, overwhelmed", described one supporter.

Among the crowds celebrating the referendum outcome at Dublin Castle where the result was announced, were many from Northern Ireland. Cheers erupted every time partial results were shown on two big screens transmitting the latest television news.

Ireland's Parliament will debate new abortion laws in the coming months.

She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, "a vote to say, I don't send you away anymore".

All of this stems from the Eighth Amendment, which was passed in 1983.

"This is a huge step forward for Ireland", Mr Coveney said.

Meanwhile, the country's education minister Anne Milton told ITV's Peston On Sunday she will back liberalisation of Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

Fiona O'Brien, who moved to the Toronto area five years ago, said she followed some of the vote over Skype with her mother in Dublin and is "over the moon" with the result.

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