DUBLIN — Irish voters made their way to the polls Friday, the final steps in a bitter, months-long national debate on whether to legalize abortion.
The deafening campaigns on either side of the emotional issue came finally to a halt, leaving the mood in Ireland’s capital city a combination of tired, tense and emotional.
Canvassers stopped knocking on doors and pedestrians walked with ease through city streets now free of leaflet-toting, often pushy volunteers on either side of the issue.
Voters outside one south Dublin polling station, a recreational community center, voiced their support for legalizing the long-illegal procedure.
“I voted yes,” said Kelcey O’Brien, 25, of Stillorgan. “For the fatal fetal abnormalities, rape, incest and people with disabilities. Time and time again amendments to include (protections) have been rejected, so it will never happen unless we get rid of the Eighth Amendment.”
Some Dubliners expressed relief that the all-consuming battle of beliefs had finally come to an end — whatever its outcome.
“It’s been ugly for the last while,” said Caolan O’Brien, 22, of Kilmacud, who also voted to repeal. “It’s all over social media and it’s both sides going to extremes. You’ve seen people getting physical and a bit of violence from it.”
Some voters remained torn about their choice.
“I can’t really make up my mind as to which one I’d agree with,” said Harry Doran, 28, a mechanic from Lucan. “I agree with both sides — one, in the sense that women should have the right to choose.
“But at the same time, I think that if you do bring it in, I think that too many people are going to take advantage of it.”
Doran said the emotional debate became impossible to escape, with the country and his own family home seemingly split in half.
“Everyone’s arguing,” he said. “In my house, my ma and da are killing each other. My da wants to vote no, my ma wants to vote yes. I’m just kind of stuck in the middle.”
Irish voters traveled home from as far away as Singapore and Canada to cast their votes, with some booking their flights as late as Thursday night.
Lianne Devaney used Facebook to update the donors who covered the cost of her trip from London to her native Ireland.
“In Heathrow Airport right now trying to hold the tears back, waiting to fly home, which was fully funded yesterday by the incredible people on here,” she wrote. “So proud to be Irish.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar cast his “yes” ballot in his north Dublin constituency of Castleknock early Friday.