Polls open across Ireland as voting on abortion referendum gets underway

Polls open across Ireland as voting on abortion referendum gets underway

POLLS have officially opened in the long-awaited referendum on Ireland's abortion laws.

Polling stations around the country opened at 7am and will remain open until 10pm tonight.

The vote will decide whether to repeal or replace the Eighth Amendment, which grants mothers and the unborn equal right to life - effectively banning terminations nationwide.

Currently, abortions are only allowed when a mother's life is deemed to be at risk - but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

The maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion in Ireland stands at 14 years.

Historic day

Ballots will be cast at more than 6,500 polling stations across the country today.

Around 3.2 million people are registered to vote in the referendum, with more than 125,000 new voters having registered ahead of May 25.

It marks the sixth time Irish citizens have voted on the issue of abortion.

The now-controversial Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was introduced after a referendum in 1983.

The ballot paper does not mention the Eighth Amendment or abortion, but instead asks: "Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?"

Those who want to retain the Eighth Amendment will vote 'no', while those who want to replace it will vote 'yes'.

Voters are advised to bring their polling card and identification such as a driver's license or passport when they cast their ballot. Those without a polling card must bring identification along with proof of address.

Counting of the votes will begin on Saturday morning, with a result expected early on Saturday evening.

However, the results of an exit poll based on the votes of 3,000 people will be announced on RTÉ's Late Late Show tonight.