Half of voters stay away from Austerity referendum
Voting closed in the 26-County Euro Treaty Referendum at 10pm this evening, and an unusually low turnout has been reported, ranging from 35% to 55% of registered voters at polling stations across Ireland.
State television has indicated the final turnout will reach just 50% of registered voters.
It is unclear how a low turnout might affect the result. Unusually low turnouts were reported in the north and west of the State, which suffered the worst of today’s damp weather conditions, as well as in working class areas. Both are seen as key areas of support for the ‘No’ vote.
In Donegal, where the ‘No’ camp had been expected to do relatively well, just one in three registered voters were estimated to have turned out to vote by 9pm. Similar figures were reported in Mayo, while in Galway numbers reached up to 40% by 8.30pm.
In the south-east, numbers were higher, with turnout ranging from 52% in Waterford city to 48% in Kilkenny, with very similar numbers in Cork and the south-west.
Turn out in north-east was described as “pretty slow”, ranging from mid-thirties to high-forties.
In Dublin, there were fears of a record low turnout. By 8pm, the highest turnout in Dublin city was in Dublin North Central, at 33%. Dublin Central was the lowest, at just 23%.
More than 3.1 million people were entitled to vote in the referendum.
As campaigning continued on the final day, the High Court rejected a last minute challenge by Sinn Féin to the legality of advice given to voters by the Referendum Commission. At ths start of the campaign, it had wrongly stated that the Dublin government had waived its veto powers over the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) -- the proposed new eurozone bailout scheme -- making it more imperative that today’s referendum be passed.
The court accepted that the situation regarding the veto remained a matter of uncertainty and debate, but that the Commission, which is required under law to be objective, had acted in good faith.
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, who took the case, said his party had gone to court because it was “an issue of central importance to the referendum”. Despite the judgement, party leader Gerry Adams said an important principle had been established in clarifying the veto powers.
LAST DITCH EFFORT
On the eve of the election, leading figures on both sides had made a final appeal for support.
“It’s over to the people of Ireland now. There are really positive reasons to vote Yes and I strongly urge people to come out and vote,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
He pointed to a number of “shovel ready” investment announcements across the State in recent days.
“I believe we can continue this flow of investment. In fact I believe we can accelerate it. That is if we send out the message that Ireland is on the road to recovery, that we are a place of economic and budgetary stability, that there is certainty about our place in Europe and that we have guaranteed access to the insurance policy of the ESM should we ever need it,” he said.
Appealing for a No vote, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the treaty would not solve the euro zone crisis and would put into the Constitution the failed policies that had caused so much hardship in Ireland.
“I ask Irish citizens not to be bullied, not to give their democratic rights away, not to give up their say over Irish economic policy and not to write austerity into the Constitution,” said Mr Adams.
He said a strong No vote would strengthen the hand of those arguing for a better, fairer way forward through investment in jobs and growth.
“Voting No is the positive and the patriotic thing to do. Voting No means standing up for each other and standing up for Ireland,” he said.
Counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow and a result is expected by early evening. Full updates here as they come in.