The outcome of the Lisbon Treaty referendum is thought to be close following a relatively high turnout of voters on Thursday.
The final turnout tally is set to reach the 50% mark when the votes are counted today,
‘Yes’ campaigners had been hoping turnout would break 50%, believing that would aid their cause.
The first Nice treaty -- a similar referendum on European unification in 2002 -- was lost on a 35% turnout, but a second version passed with a higher 50% participation rate four months later.
Polling stations in middle-class districts are known to have enjoyed high turnouts of up to 60%.
There was some concern among ‘No’ campaigners that less well off voters, which polls had indicated were more likely to oppose the treaty, did not turn out to the same degree.
Just before midnight, the larger parties said there appears to have been higher-than-expected turnout in key areas. In Dublin north-east 54 per cent of eligible citizens had voted, it was reported. Other early turnout figures were: Waterford city 60 per cent, Dun Laoghaire 61 per cent, County Clare 48 per cent, West Limerick 40 per cent.
In Munster, urban areas saw busier polling stations than rural ones, with turnout in Limerick city and east expected to top 50%.
TV crews from across Europe were readying to broadcast the result across the continent as it is announced at Dublin Castle tomorrow afternoon.
The votes from 43 constituencies will be counted at regional centres, with the first tallies expected from mid-morning.
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald who fronted the party’s ‘No’ campaign said she expected the result to be very tight.
Expressing confidence in a Yes outcome, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said as he cast his vote in Tullamore with his wife, Mary: “I’ve led it in the very best way I possibly could. I’ve done it from the front. I’ve gone all over the country. I’ve put the issues.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who voted in Castlebar, County Mayo, said he believed that public opinion had changed in the last 10 days of the campaign.
Ominously for the ‘No’ campaign, one of the country’s leading bookmakers, Paddy Power, decided within minutes of the polls closing to pay out early to those who had bet that the ‘Yes’ campaign would win.