Voters concentrated on economic issues - Cowen

Sun, Oct 4, 2009, 01:00

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said one of the main reasons for the passing of the Lisbon Treaty was that voters had focused on “economic issues” and made a decision based on how “we promote and defend our own interests”.

Speaking on Sky News this morning after the country overwhelmingly approved the treaty, Mr Cowen said as a small open economy Ireland was particularly dependent on access to Europe because of the small size of the domestic consumer market.

“We are a small open economy, we need those [European] markets – two out of three of our jobs in this country are based in enterprises that have orders in European markets.”

“Clearly the economic issues were focused on by the people where the other issues that are not central or germane did not dominate this time.”

Mr Cown said the result did not mean Ireland expected any additional help from Europe. “We are members of the euro, and that zone of stability has helped us stabilise our public finances.”

The referendum was passed with a majority of 67 per cent in favour and just two of the 43 constituencies voting against it.

European attention has now turned to Poland and the Czech Republic to fast-track the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. British Conservative Party leader David Cameron today repeated a pledge to hold a referendum on the treaty if his party takes power before it is ratified.

The referendum was carried with 67.1 per cent of the electorate voting in favour, reflecting a 20.5 per cent swing to the Yes side since the June 2008 referendum. In the first Lisbon poll, the No side secured 53.4 per cent of the vote.

The turnout was 58 per cent with 1,214,268 people voting for the treaty and 594,606 voting against. This was higher than the 53.13 per cent turnout for the first referendom on Lisbon.

Dublin South recorded the highest support for the treaty, with 82 per cent of ballots in favour. This was closely followed by Dún Laoghaire, which had an 81 per cent Yes vote, a 17.7 per cent swing compared to last year.

Across all 12 Dublin consitutencies support for the treaty was 69 per cent, with a turnout of 59.3 per cent.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he saw the Yes vote as indicative of the Irish electorate's confidence in the European Union and as a “sign that Ireland recognises the role that the European Union has played in responding to the economic crisis”.

Tipperary South was first constituency to declare a result today, reporting resounding majority in favour of the treaty. It was quickly followed by Yes majorities across the State as almost all constituencies reported significant swings in favour of the treaty. The counting, which began at 9.00am, was completed by 4.30pm.

The exceptions to the national trend were Donegal North East and Donegal South West, which rejected the treaty, the latter by a narrow margin of 50.3 per cent against. Donegal South West is the constituency of Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan. Both Donegal constituencies rejected the treaty last year.

No campaigners conceded defeat within hours of ballot boxes being opened this morning as the extent of their defeat quickly became apparent.

Libertas leader Declan Ganley told reporters the result was “a very convincing win".

"I'm surprised how big the Yes vote is and it shows how scared people are," he said. "This is a very convincing win. It's a mandate of sorts. I wish him [Taoiseach Brian Cowen] the best of luck."

"I politically admire a masterful campaign from a masterful politician who has made absolute glove puppets out of the opposition," Mr Ganley said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he was delighted and noted that the guarantees secured by the Government had played a crucial role, while Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said the result was "an essential first step towards economic recovery".

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the decision was secured “despite the anger and frustration people feel at a very unpopular Government. The biggest obstacle we had throughout this campaign was the unpopularity of the Government."

At the central count centre in Dublin Castle, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the people of Ireland had exercised their power in an enlightened way.

“It was a victory clearly for the people who rose above the anger of politics and the cynicism of politics to put their country first,” he said.

Sinn Féin vice-president and anti-Lisbon campaigner Mary Lou McDonald said the vote should not be seen as an indication of support for the Government parties. "This vote does not mean that the Government has a mandate for Nama or the upcoming budget and let them not think that or fall into that false sense of security. People still want change."

Pat Cox, a former president of the European Parliament who headed the Ireland for Europe group, claimed the voters of Ireland had put their country first. “This was a mature vote in which the Irish people rejected those voices telling them to make the referendum a verdict on the government and on national policies," he said.

Minister for Commutations, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan said the result could be a turning point for the country after a difficult 18 months.

In the first referendum on Lisbon on June 12th, 2008, the treaty was rejected by 53.4 per cent to 46.6 per cent.

In the previous EU referendum on October 19th, 2002, the Nice Treaty was approved by 62.89 per cent to 37.11 per cent. In an earlier referendum on June 7th, 2001, Nice was rejected by 53.87 per cent to 46.13 per cent.