Irish voters overwhelmingly came out to repeal a 35-year-old constitutional ban on abortions Friday, with 66.4 per cent casting “yes” ballots in the historic referendum.
An untold number of those votes were cast by young Irish women currently living abroad, like Ciara Coogan, who travelled home from where she works in France to participate.
“To see an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote is incredible,” Coogan told CTV News Channel on Saturday from Ireland.
“It’s a day of relief and elation for many people in Ireland just to know that our country has been brought into modern-day society.”
Like many Irish expatriates who returned home to vote, Coogan says she was motivated by a desire to, in her words, “create a better Ireland for our generation should we want to return, but (also) for the generations that are going to follow us.”
“I would not have missed it for the world,” she added. “The exciting thing now is that for the women that this has affected, the guilt and shame can slowly be lifted (and) they can begin to heal knowing that the country is behind them and supports them.”
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who has ushered in an era of social liberalism in the Catholic majority country, had campaigned heavily for the “yes” side. He now expects new abortion legislation to come into effect by the end of the year.
Until then, women seeking abortions will still have to travel abroad to undergo the procedure.
“It was 26 hours travel each way,” Clara Kumagi, who travelled back to Ireland from Japan. “A lot of other Irish women have had to travel in the same way if they’ve had to go to the U.K. to access safe abortion.”
Kumagi only heard the results during a layover on her way back to Tokyo.
“I feel incredible moved, very proud to be Irish at the moment,” she said from Japan. “I think it is a huge moment for Ireland and (an) indescribably huge moment for Irish women.”
Both Coogan and Kumagi were happily surprised to see the “yes” side win by such a large margin — and so too was Hazel Nolan, who travelled home from Germany, where she is a student, to cast her ballot.
“It’s so long in the making,” Nolan told CTV News Channel from Dublin.
“I just couldn’t miss this for the world,” she added. “If it didn’t go through, I actually couldn’t live with myself and I knew that we wouldn’t get the chance to do it for another 35 years.”