'No' vote mushroomed unnoticed by those inside political bubble
ANALYSIS: The result shows that voters are not in the mood to do as instructed
The significant 42 per cent No vote recorded in the children’s rights referendum proves the electorate is simply not in the mood to do what it is told.
The political establishment, including the Opposition parties, put their quarrels to the side for once and combined forces to advocate a Yes vote. So-called civil society groups and almost every organisation that works with children were promoting the constitutional amendment. The Catholic Church gave qualified support.
And yet a clear No vote was delivered by the citizens of three constituencies traditionally perceived as disadvantaged: Dublin North West (50.39 per cent), Donegal South West (56.47 per cent) and Donegal North East (59.66 per cent).
Things were close in the rebel county: the Cork North Central constituency delivered a Yes vote of just 50.09 per cent. That constituency is home to the Labour Party’s director of elections for the referendum Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State for disability, equality and mental health.
Some Government TDs at the count centre in Dublin Castle yesterday were grumbling that Sinn Féin had failed to “get its vote out” despite publicly backing the amendment. This was unfair. Sinn Féin spokesman on children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who has worked tirelessly to promote constitutional change in this area, reacted angrily.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t think you can draw a correlation between these constituencies and the fact that each of them has a single Sinn Féin voice. The fact of the matter is all of the other parties constitute the rest of that representation,” he said.
He said that the two three-seater Donegal constituencies each had one Sinn Féin TD. There were four TDs “of other opinion” across the two constituencies, two of whom were Government deputies.
Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay, one of the most prominent Yes side activists, paid particular tribute to Mr Ó Caoláin and to Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy and Brendan Smith. He said that, along with Fine Gael Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, they had been the campaign’s hardest-working canvassers.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton of Labour identified some families’ fear of “excessive zeal” on the part of some social workers dealing with childcare cases as a key reason for the larger than expected No vote. Social workers, judges and politicians tend not to be warmly regarded in disadvantaged communities where “the State” is not always thought of in a positive light.
“I heard EastEnders mentioned quite a few times,” added Ms Burton. A recent plot line in the popular soap opera involved a young mother’s battle to keep her child after she created a makeshift nappy from a tea-towel in her flat.
Rather than dismiss the No voters as refuseniks, Ms Burton said the Coalition must listen to their concerns. Plans to allow limited reporting of family law cases should help, she said.
The Yes vote failed to turn out in numbers but the No vote had mushroomed before the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday.
Those inside the political bubble just failed to notice.