The outcome of this referendum has been as clear and decisive as it could possibly have been.
There is no doubt about what we must do.
With an overwhelming majority, the people have given the Oireachtas the right and the duty to quickly legislate for a new approach founded on the core principle of trusting women and their doctors.
It is a historic change, but not one which came about easily. It is a revolutionary moment fundamentally based on the tireless, passionate and loud advocacy of active citizens.
This change could not have come about without the incredible bravery and dignity of women who came forward, both publicly and on a more personal level to tell their stories of the cruel inflexibility of a system which both judged them and denied them care.
I want to personally thank the women and men in many different settings and in all parts of the country who spoke to me about their experience of life under the Eighth Amendment.
From all ages and backgrounds, they were driven by a determination that what happened to them should not be allowed to keep happening to others.
The best part of this campaign was how the cause for change was led by the largest and most diverse civil society campaign ever assembled in this country.
Led by women and committed to keeping the voices of women central to the debate, the Together for Yes campaign – as well as the umbrella organisations which operated before the campaign – provided an immense service to our democracy.
I would also like to acknowledge the tireless work of groups of doctors and nurses to ensure that we had a fact-based debate which was capable of overcoming efforts to distort and manipulate public opinion.
A key to the success of this referendum was a proposal which respected the evidence of what changes are required to address the clear failures of the Eight.
The Citizen’s Assembly pointed in a general direction but proved that it was possible to ensure that a well-structured debate could allow people the space to question themselves and reach challenging conclusions.
It is the proposal of the Joint Committee which went before the people and it showed just how much can be achieved when we work together to try to find a consensus. Senator Noone carried out her role in an exemplary manner – and was 100% correct in emphasising expertise over advocacy. The tone of debate central to this being possible emerged from the debate on Deputy Daly’s bill, which directly began the process which led to this referendum.
The proposal for a 12 weeks period was for many a risky decision. However there was no other way of dealing with the reality of how to end an inflexible and judgemental system. It reflected both medical reality and the basic need to trust in the decisions of women.
The fact that the 12 weeks provision gained in support the more it was debated – and that it survived an aggressive attempt to paint it as going too far – means that we now have real clarity about the principles which the Irish people wish to guide our legislation.
On a personal level I would like to acknowledge Deputy Billy Kelleher, Deputy Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O’Sullivan who proposed the 12 weeks provision at the Committee.
Given the urgency to end the current law, the clarity of both the result and the promised legislation, together with the all-party work which shaped this legislation, full and rapid enactment is our basic duty.
We will facilitate this in any way possible, including extra sittings.
We also face a new challenge about how we discuss abortion in the new reality where the law is based on trust of women and medical professionals rather than a constitutional prohibition.
There is no democratic country in the world where there is no ongoing debate about abortion and Ireland will be no different.
People with strong conscientiously-held beliefs must be able to speak. Our democracy will be undermined if we deny their rights.
However we must act to make sure that the extreme tactics seen particularly in America have no place in Ireland.
Many of us have at different times been confronted by the extreme behaviour of a small minority. They employ shock tactics and aggression to make their point – something which repelled parents during the campaign when they were forced to explain graphics images and extreme claims erected in posters outside hospitals, schools and many other places.
We must from the very first moment protect women and medical professionals against the extreme radicalism which is seen elsewhere and tries to block the operation of democratically agreed policies.
We also have to learn from this campaign to protect our democracy. The government’s complacency about the abuse of online advertising was cruelly exposed – and the weakness of key elements of how we oversee referendums and elections is there for us all to see.
Let’s act now and not wait until we see here the type of abuses unfortunately common in other countries.
The Irish people have had their say.
They looked at the evidence, engaged in a long debate and reached an absolutely clear decision.
They want change. They want laws which end the inhuman inflexibility which was embodied in the 8th amendment.
They want us to trust the decisions of women and of the medical professionals who they rely upon for care.
We have had a campaign dominated by the voices of women and stories which have challenged all of us to listen.
It is now up to us to act by rapidly and comprehensively implementing the people’s decision.