A 'sad day' ... Northern Ireland religious leaders speak out over abortion vote
The leader of Ireland's Catholics has said he has been "deeply saddened" by the result of the abortion referendum in the Republic.
Twice as many voters opted to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which bans abortion in all but exceptional circumstances.
Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said yesterday: "I am deeply saddened that we appear to have obliterated the right to life of all unborn children from our Constitution, and that this country is now on the brink of legislating for a liberal abortion regime.
"At a time when scientific and medical evidence is clearer than ever about the beginning of life, we have effectively decided that some human lives - in this case the lives of the unborn - are less significant and deserving of protection than others."
He said the result means that "we are living in a new time and a changed culture for Ireland".
"For the Church it is a time for a new evangelisation," he continued.
The Primate said that he was praying for the "courageous" No voters.
He added: "It remains as important as ever to affirm the sanctity of all human life and that the intentional taking of the life of any innocent human being is wrong."
Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke - who had expressed his opposition to unrestricted access to abortion at any stage - said yesterday that after the outcome of the referendum "it behoves us all to consider these matters with mutual respect, good faith and conscience, and our prayers must be with members of the Oireachtas as they reflect on their responsibilities to the common good".
The senior clergy of the Presbyterian Church, which had come out strongly against a Yes vote, expressed its "profound sense of sadness" at the result.
Moderator Dr Noble McNeely, former Moderator Dr Trevor Morrow, and Clerk of the General Assembly Rev Trevor Gribben called on the Irish government and politicians in the Republic to keep their promise to make abortion "rare", and to ensure that the unborn with disabilities like Down's Syndrome will not have their lives terminated.
They said: "There should be no place for unrestricted abortion in a society that claims to cherish human life."
Methodist President Dr Laurence Graham and its Lay Leader Dr Fergus O'Ferrall said the result places on the Oireachtas " the responsibility of providing an opportunity for careful and sensitive legislation for safe, legal and rare terminations of pregnancy.
"We have always opposed 'abortion on demand' but have recognised that exceptional cases such as rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities may give rise to termination, and we would wish to see these provided for in the new legislation."
Belfast priest and Belfast Telegraph commentator Fr Patrick McCafferty said: "It is a dark and sad day for our country.
"God's law cannot be repealed by a referendum.
"So-called 'Catholic Culturalism' is dead in Ireland.
"This is a moment to pause and re-assess. We are called not to be popular, respectful and accessible, but to be faithful to proclaim the Gospel without compromise or fear."