Young voters to the fore as Ireland says clear Yes to repeal of abortion law
Voters in the Republic look set to deliver an overwhelming Yes vote in the abortion referendum.
A high turnout across the country led to a growing confidence among those in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
According to an exit poll for The Irish Times, the Yes vote passed comprehensively in both urban and rural areas alike, with the result expected to be 68% to 32%.
The highest Yes vote was in Dublin, with 77% backing change.
In rural areas, though, where the No vote was expected to be stronger, the Yes vote still hit 70%.
Young people were the biggest supporters for repeal of the Eighth Amendment with 87% of 18-24 year olds voting Yes. However, those over 65 voted against the change.
Seventy per cent of women were in favour and 65% of men, according to the exit poll of 4,000 voters by Ipsos-MRBI.
The eyes of the world's media were on the Republic as people went to the polls in one of the most divisive referendums ever.
Staff at polling stations suggested turnout was equal to or better than during the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
All day the signals were that around 60% of voters - 1.9 million people - had made their way to the ballot box.
But it was reports of significant numbers of young people showing up to cast their votes that led Yes supporters to believe they would win the day.
More than 118,000 got their name added to the register of electors in the weeks leading up to referendum.
Almost 20,000 of these were in Dublin alone, which is expected to carry a very strong Yes result.
As evidence of how this referendum has engaged the public, queues were reported at some polling stations before they opened at 7am yesterday.
Polling stations reported busier than usual traffic in the early hours - but there were fears that the good weather would keep many workers away from the polling stations after they'd clocked off.
Casting his "big Yes" vote at Castleknock yesterday morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "The upside of a sunny day in Dublin is that people will turn out to vote. The bad thing is that they might not turn out after work."
Mr Varadkar did admit he was "quietly confident".
Health Minister Simon Harris said he was "encouraged by the significant number of people who registered to vote".
However, some nerves set in as the numbers showing up at polling stations slowed.
The 'Together for Yes' group ran a social media campaign throughout the late evening urging people to continue voting in large numbers. It sent out alerts warning that turnout was "comparatively much lower" in some key constituencies, including Dublin Central, where Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe ran pro-choice campaigns.
Sources heavily involved in the No camp were far from conceding the referendum last night, however.
They told the Irish Independent that turnout was also high in the regions and the fine weather meant many older voters had no problems getting to the polls.
A rural-urban divide is expected, but Tanaiste Simon Coveney claimed it might not be as pronounced as polls suggested.
"Up until around 10 days ago there wasn't the same level of intensity to the campaign outside Dublin as there was in Dublin," he said.
"I suspect that many rural constituencies may yet surprise people."
Mr Coveney said his position had effectively changed once he started listening to the stories of people impacted by the law as it currently stands.
Ballot boxes from all 40 constituencies will be opened at 9am today.
A result is expected in mid-to-late afternoon - but the likelihood is that the result will become obvious by mid-morning.
The official announcement will be made in Dublin Castle this evening.
Mr Varadkar is expected to make a public address in which he will call for the country to reunite after the result.
If the referendum is passed, Mr Harris is expected to begin the process of formulating legislation for abortion in the coming days.
However, sources have described the chances of getting it passed through the Dail by the end of the year as optimistic.