Ireland looks to have said an overwhelming “yes” to same-sex marriage in the country’s referendum – according to both supporters and opponents of the bill.
Ireland is the first country in the world to introduce marriage equality by popular vote, it's a massive statement and we haven't just done it by small numbers. It's an overwhelming vote
With final results still expected, government ministers predicted voters had backed the proposal by a margin of around two-to-one.
The move has been supported by all political parties, large employers and celebrities.
Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE said the vast majority of constituencies appeared to have backed “yes” – to the delight of campaigners in favour.
“To send this message to the world and to LBGT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender) young people in Ireland and across the world that Ireland is the first country in the world to introduce marriage equality by popular vote, it’s a massive statement and we haven’t just done it by small numbers. It’s an overwhelming vote,” said Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.
“No” campaigners have conceded defeat amid a turnout described as unusually high.
It is the first time a popular vote has been used to decide if a constitution should be changed to allow same-sex marriage.
The Catholic Church, still very influential in the country, opposed gay marriage but limited its campaigning to church congregations.
Opposition groups have raised concerns over parenthood and surrogacy rights for gay couples and many believe the recognition of legal rights for same-sex couples in 2009 is sufficient.
The vote comes just two decades after homosexual acts were decriminalised in Ireland.
The result is expected on Saturday evening.