Access to funding was key issue in victory for pro-treaty forces
ANALYSIS:The outcome is an important step for the country and a decisive victory for the Government and its allies on the Yes side
THE TASK of persuading the voters to back the treaty represented a huge challenge for the Coalition and it could very easily have gone horribly wrong.
The failure to carry the first Lisbon treaty referendum marked the beginning of the end for Brian Cowen and his government and Enda Kenny could have been under no illusions that defeat would have been a political disaster for his administration.
Only last autumn an Irish Times poll showed a two-to-one majority of the electorate prepared to vote No if asked to approve a treaty incorporating fiscal disciplines.
Persuading people to put aside their resentment at the aspects of the EU/IMF bailout, particularly public spending cuts and taxpayer liability for bank debt, did not look like an easy task.
The key to turning the public mood around was a strong committed campaign allied to a clear and simple message.
On the campaign front Fine Gael rose to Kenny’s challenge to campaign as if it was a general election. There was much more door-to-door canvassing than normal in an EU referendum, with the party focusing on areas where it is strong.
Director of elections Simon Coveney and Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton ran an effective campaign that got the Fine Gael vote out.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also campaigned hard and while Labour did not have the same visible presence on the ground as Fine Gael, the task facing him and his party was much more difficult.
From the beginning opinion polls showed that while there was strong middle class backing for the fiscal treaty, there was considerable opposition in working class areas. Labour TDs found the going tough on the ground but those who followed the example of director of elections Joan Burton and campaigned hard were able to swing things around a little.
The nature of the fiscal treaty gave the Government a clear message to sell. Red herrings like conscription, abortion, nuclear power and neutrality could not be dragged into the campaign.
The Government also managed, by and large, to keep some of its own controversial policies like property tax and water charges that arise directly from the bailout, out of the debate.
A key element in the Yes argument was that access to future funding from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) would be cut off in the event of a No vote. That unambiguous fact helped to concentrate the minds of voters who might have been tempted to vote No in protest at Government policy or EU-wide austerity measures.
Almost 150 years ago that great novelist and student of politics Anthony Trollope, who lived in Ireland for over a decade, said that, contrary to the stereotype, Irish people had a better grasp of economic realities than their English counterparts.