The children’s referendum passed narrowly on a near-record low turnout in counting today, but the unconvincing manner of the victory has added to doubts over the validity of the result.
The referendum has been passed by 615,731 votes (57.4%) to 445,863 (42.6%), with 4,645 spoiled votes.
Donegal South West, Donegal North East and Dublin North West voted ‘No’ to the referendum, with other constituencies voting in favour. The ‘Yes’ vote was at its highest in urban and wealthy areas.
The Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s own constituency of Mayo voted by a margin of 53% per cent to 47% per cent in favour of the amendment. The highest ‘Yes’ vote was in Dublin South, where the referendum was carried by 73% per cent in favour. There were ‘Yes’ votes of 72% per cent in Dublin South East and in Dun Laoghaire.
Although believed to be one of the least contentious referenda in the history of the 26-County state -- only one independent member of the Dublin parliament expressed any opposition -- the vote became shrouded in controversy at the last minute when the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s information campaign had been biased and illegal.
At issue was the respective rights of the state, the child and the parents in family law. While children’s rights campaigners were unanimous in favour of the change, chiefly to safeguard the welfare of abused, neglected or orphaned children, a very small number of opponents expressed concern at the dangers of increasing the powers of the state to ‘break up families’. Others suggested the proposed changes to the constitution were unnecessary and cosmetic.
Despite the court finding on Thursday that the state had broken the law in advocating a ‘Yes’ vote, the coalition government insisted the referendum should go ahead.
Turnout reached just 33% as voters stayed away, despite being offered the unusual opportunity to vote on a weekend. Spoiled votes also reached a high of 1% as ballots were used to protest government policy on a range of issues.
However, the decision by two-thirds of the electorate not to turn out to vote has added impetus to a legal effort by ‘No’ campaigners to have the referendum re-run.
The number of ‘Yes’ ballots was just 19.4% of registered voters. Journalist John Waters, who advocated a ‘No’ vote, says he thinks if someone were to challenge the outcome of today’s referendum, they would have a very strong case.
“There has certainly been a very short time since the last opinion poll,” he said, pointing to a sudden increase in support for the ‘No’ side after the government’s information campaign was called into question.
“Therefore, I think there’s an argument to be made that with more time... as it were, time for this wrong to be righted.
“There was only 24 hours after the Supreme Court judgement on Thursday before the [broadcast] moratorium kicked in.”
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald hailed the result as “a historic day for the protection of children in Ireland”.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was “disappointed” with the turnout. He said the referendum “never took fire in terms of debate” and this may have resulted in people feeling it was a “foregone conclusion” .
‘No’ campaigner Kathy Sinnott said the “real losers” in the referendum were the children of Ireland and their parents “who have now lost their right to protect them”. The former Munster MEP said she is worried for democracy because “the state has lied and cheated and got away with it” and that the referendum result was “contaminated”.
While his party’s supported the measure, Sinn Fein’s Limerick representative Maurice Quinlivan said there had been “huge” public confusion and uncertainty over the referendum. He held Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald responsible for what he said had been a “shambles” and that they “should be considering their positions”.
The following is a full breakdown of the results:
CARLOW/KILKENNY: YES 59.18%, NO 40.82% / Turnout: 34.02% CLARE: YES 61.71%, NO 38.29% / Turnout: 32.3% CORK EAST: YES 56.11%, NO 43.89% / Turnout: 33.72% CORK NORTH-CENTRAL: YES 50.09%, NO 49.91% / Turnout: 33.41% CORK NORTH-WEST: YES 57.44%, NO 42.56% / Turnout: 35.11% CORK SOUTH CENTRAL: YES 59.52%, NO 40.48% / Turnout: 36.23% CORK SOUTH WEST: YES 56.58%, NO 43.42% / Turnout: 35.07% DONEGAL NORTH EAST: YES 40.34%, NO 59.66% / Turnout: 24.47% DONEGAL SOUTH WEST: YES 45.12%, NO 54.88% / Turnout: 41.91% DUBLIN CENTRAL: YES 58.65%, NO 41.35% / Turnout: 32.42% DUBLIN MID-WEST: YES 55.21%, NO 44.79% / Turnout: 35.27% DUBLIN NORTH EAST: YES 60.1%, NO 39.9% / Turnout: 38.86% DUBLIN NORTH-CENTRAL: YES 63.31%, NO 36.69% / Turnout: 42.03% DUBLIN NORTH-EAST: YES 60.1%, NO 39.9% / Turnout: 38.86% DUBLIN NORTH-WEST: YES 49.61%, NO 50.39% / Turnout: 36.08% DUBLIN NORTH: YES 64.83%, NO 35.17% / Turnout: 35.59% DUBLIN SOUTH CENTRAL: YES 54.89%, NO 45.11% / Turnout: 34.61% DUBLIN SOUTH WEST: YES 51.93%, NO 48.07% / Turnout: 35.93% DUBLIN SOUTH-EAST: YES 71.87%, NO 28.13% / Turnout: 33.44% DUBLIN SOUTH: YES 73.03%, NO 26.97% / Turnout: 40.92% DUBLIN WEST: YES 60.84%, NO 39.16% / Turnout: 35.46% DUN LAOGHAIRE: YES 71.57%, NO 28.43% / Turnout: 41.54% GALWAY EAST: YES 59.02%, NO 40.98% / Turnout: 29.6%. GALWAY WEST: YES 62.2%, NO 37.8% / Turnout: 27.96% KERRY NORTH / WEST LIMERICK: YES 53.6%, NO 46.4%. KERRY SOUTH: 57.06%, NO 42.94% / Turnout: 29.45% KILDARE NORTH: YES 66.27%, NO 33.73% / Turnout: 35.04% KILDARE SOUTH: YES 57.79%, NO 42.21% / Turnout: 33.4% LAOIS-OFFALY: YES 53.66%, NO 46.34% / Turnout: 32% LIMERICK: YES 59.01%, NO 40.99% / Turnout: 30.29%. LIMERICK CITY: YES 60.99%, NO 39.01% / Turnout: 31.62%. LONGFORD-WESTMEATH: YES 54.88%, NO 45.12% / Turnout: 30.56% LOUTH: YES 53.09%, NO 46.91% / Turnout: 32.45% MAYO: YES 53.01%, NO 46.99% / Turnout: 32.11% MEATH WEST: YES 53.26%, NO 46.74% / Turnout: 31.41% MEATH-EAST: YES 59.8%, NO 40.2% / Turnout: 32.49% ROSCOMMON-SOUTH LEITRIM: YES 52.92%, NO 47.08% / Turnout: 33.81% SLIGO-NORTH LEITRIM: YES 56.25%, NO 43.75% / Turnout: 31.36% TIPPERARY NORTH: YES 55.75%, NO 44.25% / Turnout: 37.22% TIPPERARY SOUTH: YES 54.17%, NO 45.83% / Turnout: 35.18%. WATERFORD: 55.95%, NO 44.05% / Turnout: 35.06% WEXFORD: YES 54.83%, NO 45.17% / Turnout: 33.09% WICKLOW: YES 59.99 %, NO 40.01% / Turnout: 39.67%