Ireland’s people have shown their compassion for those going through marital breakdowns, a government minister has said.

Josepha Madigan, Irish Culture minister and advocate of the liberalisation of the nation’s divorce laws, thanked those who voted in the referendum on Saturday evening as county after county returned yes results.

Voters were asked to vote on whether to reduce the lengthy period separated couples have to wait before they can obtain a formal divorce.

Indications are that over 80% have voted yes.

In 2016 Ms Madigan moved a private member’s bill which proposed a liberalisation of the law, which led to the referendum.

“I think it’s an emphatic unequivocal result, and even though we have a very low marital breakdown in Ireland, it just demonstrates the amount of people who stand in solidarity with them,” she said.

“It’s a real groundswell of support and compassion for all those people suffering from marital breakdown and I really want to thank the Irish people for coming out and supporting them.”

Official confirmation of the vote was expected to come late on Saturday night.

Couples currently have to prove to a court that they have been separated for a long period – four of the previous five years – before they can secure a divorce.

Voters were asked to amend the state’s constitution to hand politicians the power to set the length of the “pause period”.

If handed the responsibility, the Fine Gael-led government wants to halve the period from four years to two.

Couples can currently secure a judicial separation in a shorter timeframe, but they must the proceed to a second legal stage to obtain a formal court-approved divorce.

Those advocating a No vote had warned against the prospect of “quickie divorces”, expressing concern about giving politicians a free hand to potentially reduce the waiting time even further in the future.

A second element of the referendum focused on foreign divorces.

The anticipated Yes vote is set to make it easier for those divorces to be recognised in Ireland.