The nation gives one great big sigh of relief
THE SUFFOCATING blanket of babble slowly cleared yesterday and a bank holiday front moved in to bring welcome respite to a weary nation.
After a tortuously long referendum campaign, all sides sounded relieved to see the back of it.
A solemn Enda Kenny took to the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin and declared: “Democracy tumbled out of the ballot boxes this morning.” It resulted in a nasty bump for the No campaign and a soft landing for supporters of the fiscal treaty.
When the first boxes were opened, the result was called within minutes by seasoned count observers.
As soon as those votes began to tumble, June burst out all over and played its happy tune to the Yes camp.
Not that they were singing. The situation remains too grave for public displays of celebration.
But you could see they were thrilled.
“The Irish people have sent a powerful signal around the world that this is a country that is serious about overcoming its economic challenges,” said the Taoiseach of the 60 per cent of the 50 per cent who actually voted.
The No side took some comfort in this. They may have fallen down badly with their grasp of figures during the campaign, but they were up to doing the sums when it came to analysing Thursday’s turnout.
While they couldn’t quibble with the result, which was pleasingly decisive for the Government, they sniffed that nearly two-thirds of only half the population could hardly be described as a ringing endorsement.
Nonetheless, the anti-treaty forces were soundly beaten.
It didn’t take a feather out of Sinn Féin, playing the long game.
“This is one battle in what’s going to be a very, very long struggle,” said Gerry Adams, just before the result was announced in Dublin Castle.
He loves an aul struggle, does Gerry.
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste didn’t come to the count centre. They did the statesmen routine in front of the imposing backdrop of Government Buildings, welcoming the decision of the people and pledging to redouble their efforts to work for recovery.
Then they thanked everyone who helped in the effort, just stopping short of thanking Angela Merkel for the use of the hall.
Micheál Martin’s ears must have been burning in Cork, such were the plaudits coming from Fine Gael and Labour for the leader of Fianna Fáil and the part he played in the Yes campaign.
The praise went to the head of one Senator, who lost the run of himself on television during the morning and declared, without a hint of irony, that “it was Fianna Fáil wot won it”. Thomas Byrne’s declaration drew snorts of laughter from Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton. Back in Dublin Castle, Fianna Fáil handlers sank their heads in their hands. Byrne, we suspect, was sent to bed with no supper last night.
An upbeat Sinn Féin, having reaped the publicity dividend, focused on the future, and in particular, on Labour.
“Throughout, in Dublin, without a doubt, the Labour Party was on the wrong side of the argument as viewed by its own base,” said Mary Lou McDonald, laying down a marker for the continuing struggle.