The Seanad, the upper house of the 26-County parliament, has been saved from abolition by a small margin following counting of votes in yesterday’s referendum.
With final results in from all 43 constituencies, and excluding the 1.2 per cent of voters who spoiled their ballots, 51.7 per cent of the electorate rejected the proposition to scrap the Seanad with 48.3 per cent voting in favour.
Polls rights up to referendum day had predicted voters would accept one of the biggest changes ever to Eamon de Valera’s 1937 constitution to scrap the almost powerless body.
The result is being seen as a significant embarrassment for Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who refused to even enter into a debate on the issue.
Of the 1,226,374 valid votes cast, 591,937 were in favour and 634,437 votes were against the proposal, a margin of 42,500 votes.
During the course of counting, a clear pattern emerged of a solid ‘No’ vote in all Dublin constituencies and in the surrounding counties of Leinster.
One of the few constituencies to deliver a strong ‘Yes’ vote was Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s constituency of Mayo, which voted 57 per cent ‘Yes’ and 43 per cent ‘No’. Another was Kerry South, which voted in favour by 55 per cent to 45 percent.
Many of the rural counties in Connaught, the midlands and Munster also recorded small ‘Yes’ votes, as well as Limerick City.
In contrast, the highest vote against was in Dublin South-East, where voters rejected the referendum by 61 per cent to 39 per cent. Another relatively wealthy constituency, Dun Laoghaire rejected the amendment by the second-highest margin of 57 per cent to 43 per ceont.
Two Donegal constituencies, which often run counter to the national trend, were among those to show a small ‘No’ majority, as were the urban areas in other parts of Ireland.
The overall turnout counted reached just over 39 per cent, ranging from a low of 30 per cent in the Donegal constituencies to a high of 48 per cent in Dublin North Central and 46 per cent in Dun Laoghaire.
Fianna Fáil and the Green Party were the only parties to oppose the measure, while Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein and other left-wing groups backed a ‘Yes’ vote.
As its celebrations were getting underway, Fianna Fáil this afternoon seized on Enda Kenny’s campaign, with its Cork North Central TD, Billy Kelleher, describing the Taoiseach as “cowardly.”
He said the failure to take part in a debate was the reason for the ‘No’ vote, and the public had sent the Taoiseach a message not to take them for fools and not to take them for granted.
Sinn Féin also focused attention on the Taoiseach, with its Deputy Leader, Mary Lou McDonald, saying it was a “big mistake” for Mr Kenny to refuse to debate the matter.
“I think it was a big mistake on the part of Enda Kenny not to step up as the chief proposer of this and set out his stall,” she said. “I think it was a bigger mistake for him to rush this issue.”
The idea to hold a referendum on getting rid of the Seanad was one personally put forward by Mr Kenny, who announced the plan in front of 1,200 party members at the Fine Gael Presidential Dinner in October 2009 - overturning the party’s policy paper on reform of the Seanad which had been drawn up months earlier.
“I believe the Seanad should be abolished, and the next Fine Gael government will put this to the people. I have come to the conclusion that a second house of the Oireachtas can no longer be justified,” he said.
Voting is still underway in a second referendum on the setting up of a Court of Appeal, also held yesterday, and is set to by approved by a wide margin.
Constituency % Yes % No Carlow-Kilkenny 49.47 50.53 Cavan-Monaghan 54.87 45.13 Clare 51.33 48.67 Cork East 48.60 51.40 Cork North-C 51.84 48.16 Cork North-West 49.95 50.05 Cork South-C 48.73 51.27 Cork South-West 50.94 49.06 Donegal North East 48.31 51.69 Donegal South-West 49.58 50.42 Dublin Central 42.12 57.88 Dublin Mid-West 45.30 54.70 Dublin North 45.33 54.67 Dublin North-C 45.23 54.77 Dublin North-East 45.43 54.57 Dublin North-West 45.31 54.69 Dublin South 46.79 53.21 Dublin South-C 43.44 56.56 Dublin South-East 38.67 61.33 Dublin South-West 47.68 52.32 Dublin West 42.42 57.58 Dun Laoghaire 42.90 57.10 Galway East 51.37 48.63 Galway West 49.34 50.66 Kerry N-W Limerick 53.84 46.16 Kerry South 54.48 45.52 Kildare North 45.39 54.61 Kildare South 44.49 55.51 Laois-Offaly 46.11 53.89 Limerick 50.45 49.55 Limerick City 52.72 47.28 Longford-Westmeath 51.02 48.98 Louth 47.67 52.33 Mayo 57.46 42.54 Meath East 47.42 52.58 Meath West 46.39 53.61 Roscommon-S Leitrim 51.67 48.33 Sligo-N Leitrim 50.76 49.24 Tipperary North 50.38 49.62 Tipperary South 50.41 49.59 Waterford 46.54 53.46 Wexford 49.91 50.09 Wicklow 42.18 57.82 Total 48.27 51.73