Low turnout as only half of electorate votes in referendum


AS POLLS closed last night the indications were that just about half of the electorate voted in the referendum on the fiscal treaty.

The turnout in Dublin was reported to be lower than in the last comparable referendum, on the Lisbon treaty in October 2009, when the national turnout was 59 per cent. Turnout was even lower in many rural parts of the country and observers said it would struggle to reach 50 per cent.

Rain across the country in the morning and afternoon did not help the turnout, and while it picked up in the evening, the indications were that it would not reach 50 per cent in many areas.

Meanwhile yesterday the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said that bailout funds will be used to directly rescue banks, an initiative with potential to set a precedent for Ireland’s bank bailout.

Mr Draghi also said the current structure of the euro zone was unsustainable and a pan-European deposit guarantee scheme was required to prevent bank runs.

His remarks to MEPs, on the day that Spain revealed a record €66.2 billion capital flight from its banks in March, came as senior European figures issued dire warnings that the euro’s survival was at risk.

EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn said the currency could disintegrate, Italian premier Mario Monti said Rome was exposed to huge contagion risk and chief of the Italian central bank Ignazio Visco said “the entire European edifice” was in danger.

Facing pressure for the ECB to intervene to stabilise markets, Mr Draghi insisted it was primarily the task of governments to tackle the crisis. He called for a further centralisation of banking supervision and greater protection for depositors, saying the authorities will avoid bank runs from solvent banks.

A Yes vote in Ireland today would represent the first bit of good news for the euro in some time.

More than 3.1 million people were entitled to vote in the referendum, and polling stations were open from 7am until 10pm.

The Dublin city returning officer reported that a disappointing 38 per cent of voters had cast their ballots by 8.15pm, with turnout highest in Dublin North-Central, at 46 per cent.

Some 34 per cent of the electorate in Dublin North-West had voted by that time, with turnout at 40 per cent in Dublin South-Central and Dublin North-East; and 31 per cent in Dublin Central. A figure of 35 per cent was reported in Dublin South-East.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown reported a turnout of just under 37 per cent by that time, compared with 27.6 per cent in Dublin West; 34.7 per cent in Dublin South-West; 35.95 per cent in Dublin Mid-West; 32 per cent in Dublin North; and 36.4 per cent in Dublin South.

Political parties reported that older people appeared to be voting Yes by a substantial majority, although the vote was more evenly split among younger voters.

Among the early voters were President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, who cast their ballots at St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park.

Also out early were Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who voted in Castlebar, while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and his wife voted in Shankill, Co Dublin.

The ballot boxes will be opened at 9am today at count centres in all 43 constituencies. Each constituency will forward its results to the central count centre in Dublin Castle, where the result will be formally announced this evening.