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Thousands Of Irish Expats Return Home To Vote In Abortion Referendum


Irish voters are set to overturn a strict ban on abortion. That's according to two major exit polls from RTE Television and The Irish Times. Official results are expected tomorrow. Earlier today, Alice Fordham spoke with voters in Dublin, some of whom had even returned from abroad to take part in the vote.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: In central Dublin, it's unusually sunny. And there's a festive atmosphere dominated by people wearing pins and stickers declaring they voted yes to repeal the part of the constitution that in practice forbids abortion. Many voters have returned from abroad. Muireann Speed came from the U.K., where she is studying for a Ph.D. She describes the atmosphere on the flight back as being electric.

MUIREANN SPEED: It was fantastic. It was just obviously nervous energy, anxiety but also a very positive feeling, like a change is going to come and like we're moving forward.

FORDHAM: She believes almost everyone on that flight was voting to repeal.

SPEED: I am pretty positive. Everybody was wearing repeal jumpers, together for yes jumpers. We're all excited. People who didn't know each other came together, joined together.

FORDHAM: Speed says there was a warm welcome for returning Irish voters at Dublin Airport, including a party organized by one of the groups that wants to change the abortion law. There have been posts on social media from people saying they're heading home to vote to keep Ireland's strict abortion laws as they are.

But at least here in central Dublin, people voting not to change the constitution seemed unwilling to shout about it. There are plenty of posters and banners objecting to the change in the law but fewer people wearing pins or stickers saying no. And several no voters were reluctant to speak publicly about their views. One older couple out shopping did talk about their decisions.

ANNE: We're two different votes.

FORDHAM: Anne doesn't want to give her full name because she's the only member of her family voting to keep abortion laws as they are.

ANNE: I'm a yes - no, I'm a no, and he's a yes.

FORDHAM: She thought about it long and hard.

ANNE: I have pondered it, and I have flicked that way and that way. But I don't need anyone to tell me. I feel abortion's wrong.

FORDHAM: But then her husband, Shane, made his decision after thinking about the thousands of Irish women who travel abroad to have abortions every year.

SHANE: The only thing I would say is that young girls having to go to England, looking after themselves over there - that's not on.

FORDHAM: The votes will be counted tomorrow and the result expected late on Saturday. For NPR News, I'm Alice Fordham in Dublin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alice Fordham is an NPR International Correspondent based in Beirut, Lebanon.
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