'Historic day' as vote sees Eighth amendment swept away in Landslide
Ireland has voted by a massive majority to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The State is on course to legalise abortion after a swell of young people turned out to vote.
"It looks like we could be on the cusp of a historic day where our country can enact laws that are a bit more compassionate for our women," Health Minister Simon Harris told the Herald.
The eyes of the world's media are on the country after exit polls predicted a landslide Yes victory in the referendum.
The referendum was passed by significant margins in Dublin and rural areas, with an estimated overall outcome of between 68pc and 70pc in favour of Yes.
As evidence of how this referendum has engaged the public, queues were reported at some polling stations before they opened at 7am yesterday.
Staff at polling stations around the country suggested that turnout was equal to or better than during the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
All the signals were that more than 60pc of voters - around two million people - made their way to the ballot box.
An Irish Times poll by Ipsos/MRBI asked 4,000 people at 160 locations around the country how they voted as they left polling stations. RTÉ quizzed 3,800 people. And the two exit polls found very similar results.
They found that more than three out of every four voters in Dublin (77pc) backed Yes.
The majority was smaller in rural Ireland - but still much larger than even the most optimistic Yes campaigners would have predicted.
Overall the exit poll found that 60pc of rural dwellers were satisfied to allow the Government to legislate for abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
In Leinster, excluding Dublin, the expected result is in the region of 66pc Yes compared to 34pc No. Munster will also bring in a similar result.
Connacht-Ulster, which is regarded as the most socially conservative part of the country, voted in favour of the constitutional change by 59pc to 41pc.
Women are thought to have voted in favour of change by a margin of 70pc to 30pc.
And men were not far behind, with 65pc believed to say Yes.
One of the biggest stories emerging from Referendum Day is the enormous numbers of young people who turned out to vote. The exit poll found that 87pc of those aged between 18-24 voted for repeal.
It was reports of significant numbers of young people showing up to cast their vote that led Yes supporters to believe they will win the day.
More than 118,000 got their name added to the Register of Electors in the weeks leading up to the referendum. Almost 20,000 of these were in Dublin alone, which is predicted to carry a very strong Yes result.
Polling stations reported busier than usual traffic in the early hours - but there were fears that many workers would not return home to vote in the evening due to the fine weather.
There were some nerves setting 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.
They sent out alerts warning that turnout was "comparatively much lower" in some key constituencies.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney said he believed a key element of the campaign was the number of voters who did not want to voice a preference - the so-called "silent vote".
Late last night, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the exit polls "are a confidence boost that Irish voters have once again responded with compassion and solidarity".
"I remain very hopeful that count centres across the country will turn these predictions into an official result."
She predicted that today will be "an emotional, busy and historic day."
Ballot boxes from all 40 constituencies will be opened at 9am today.
A result is expected in mid-afternoon.
The official announcement will be made at Dublin Castle.
It is understood members of the public will be allowed into the famous courtyard, but Government figures said they are keen to avoid any triumphalism, regardless of the outcome.
Mr Varadkar is expected to make a public address in which he will call for the country to unite after the result.
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.
More than 350 journalists, camera people and technicians have accreditation for the official count at Dublin Castle today.
A list of outlets, seen by the Herald, shows the interest stretches from the US across Europe and even into Asia.
Among the broadcasters present in Dublin are CNN, China Global Television Network, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Al Jazeera.