WATCH: Clare Daly pays emotional Dáil tribute to grassroots pro-choice campaigners

The independent TD noted that politicians failed to lead the way on the abortion issue

The issue of abortion has been described as 'a massive ball and chain' that has dogged Ireland for the last 35 years.

Independents for Change Deputy Clare Daly said Friday's Yes vote in the referendum on the 8th amendment is like a massive weight being lifted from everyone's shoulders.

In an emotional speech in the Dáil this afternoon she paid tribute to the grassroots campaigners who worked so hard to bring about Saturday's historic result.

She described the weekend as a watershed moment for women in Ireland.

"I can't believe that I am 50 years of age and it has taken this long," she said.

"It has taken my daughter to come home for her first vote to get us here and I think for so many women it represented so much," she said.

"It is almost like society atoning for everything it has done to women in this country.

"Atoning for how we stigmatise women faced with crisis pregnancies.

"The Magdalene Laundries, the mother and baby homes, the shaming; the robbed identities that we are going to hear about later this afternoon - it still goes on."

Grassroots campaigners

She said she was "absolutely in awe" of the campaigners and organisations who have argued in favour of reforming Ireland's abortion laws over the years - "before the glory days."

"It was - if I had to name one person more than anyone - it was Ailbhe Smyth," she said.

"Let's be clear here. Ailbhe Smyth is a giant in terms of this movement and has stood there when there was no glory to be had.

She acknowledged the role of the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris  although she did note that "it took you a while to get there."

"But you were at the helm and you did steer the ship and history will testify that you delivered," she said. "I thank you for that."

Uphill battle

"But let's be honest here; politicians have not led on this issue.

"We haven't even followed until recently. This has been an uphill battle, pushing a boulder up a hill over decades and nobody here was involved in pushing it up.

"Let's be honest about it for once can we? Nobody was.

"In actual fact, a lot of people were sitting on the boulder making it even more difficult for those outside who wanted to push for change.

"Then we have the other people of course who once the boulder was on the top of the hill and it was about to go down the other side decided to try to jump ahead even though they hadn't done any of the pushing and try and claim some of the glory."

She called for the legislation to be fully debated and enacted without any further posturing, "adding can we please just cop on with the games."