DUBLIN: In the end, it wasn’t even close.

Irish voters — young and old, male and female, farming types and city-bred folk — endorsed expunging an abortion ban from their largely Catholic country’s constitution by a 2-1 margin, referendum results compiled Saturday showed.

The decisive outcome of the landmark referendum held Friday exceeded expectations and was cast as a historic victory for women’s rights. Polls had given the pro-repeal “yes” side a small lead, but suggested the contest would be close.

Since 1983, the now-repealed Eighth Amendment had forced women seeking to terminate pregnancies to go abroad for abortions, bear children conceived through rape or incest or take illegal measures at home.

As the final tally was announced showing over 66 percent of voters supported lifting the ban, crowds in the ancient courtyard of Dublin Castle began chanting “Savita! Savita!” in honor of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who died of sepsis during a protracted miscarriage after being denied an abortion at a Galway hospital in 2012.

With exit polls showing a win for abortion rights campaigners, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called the victory the “culmination of a quiet revolution.” Later, he hailed the momentous outcome as a victory for Ireland’s future.

“I said in recent days that this was a once in a generation vote. Today I believe we have voted for the next generation,” said Varadkar, who is Ireland’s first openly gay leader as well as its first prime minister from an ethnic minority group.

The next battleground is likely parliament, where the government led by Varadkar hopes to capitalize on the fresh momentum and enact legislation spelling out the conditions under which abortions will be legal for the first time by the end of this year.

The plan is to allow abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in special cases after the first trimester, likely ending the trail of Irish women who go elsewhere by the thousands each year for abortions they can’t get at home.

“Under the Eighth Amendment, the only thing we could say to women in this country was ‘take a flight or take a boat,’ ” Health Minister Simon Harris told Irish broadcaster RTE. “And now the country is saying, ‘No, take our hands, we want to support you.’ ”

Some called for the new abortion law to be named, “Savita’s law.” Her father, Andanappa Yalagi, said he has “no words” to express his gratitude for the “yes” vote.

“We’ve got justice for Savita,” he told the Hindustan Times. “What happened to her will not happen to any other family.”

It is not yet clear how hard the soundly defeated “no” forces will fight for restrictive laws in parliament in light of the overwhelming appetite for reform.

John McGuirk, spokesman for the Save the 8th group, told RTE that many Irish citizens would not recognize the country in which they were waking up. But, McGuirk said, the vote must still be respected.

“You can still passionately believe that the decision of the people is wrong, as I happen to do, and accept it,” he said.