Yes and No sides in final pleas as referendum vote gets under way


VOTERS GO to the polls today at the end of a hard-fought referendum campaign to decide if Ireland can ratify the fiscal treaty.

Calling for a big turnout, campaigners for both Yes and No agreed that the outcome would have a vital bearing on the country’s prospects in the years ahead.

As campaigning continued on the final day, the High Court rejected a last minute challenge by Sinn Féin to the legality of the advice given to voters by the Referendum Commission.

Fine Gael director of elections Simon Coveney described the Sinn Féin action as a “stunt that has fallen flat on its face”. Former president of the European Parliament and Yes campaigner Pat Cox described the High Court action as a “vexatious complaint which marks a new low in referendum politics”.

Last night the leading figures on both sides made a final appeal for support.

“It’s over to the people of Ireland now. There are really positive reasons to vote Yes and I strongly urge people to come out and vote,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He said there had been a steady stream of foreign direct investment into the Republic over the past few months with announcements from Dublin to Cork, from Dundalk to Galway.

“I believe we can continue this flow of investment. In fact I believe we can accelerate it. That is if we send out the message that Ireland is on the road to recovery, that we are a place of economic and budgetary stability, that there is certainty about our place in Europe and that we have guaranteed access to the insurance policy of the ESM should we ever need it,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he was acutely aware of the enormous sacrifices Irish people had made to get this country back on track.

“While there are still difficult challenges ahead, I hope people will vote Yes to continuing the progress we’ve made together,” he said.

Appealing for a No vote, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the treaty would not solve the euro zone crisis and would put into the Constitution the failed policies that had caused so much hardship in Ireland.

“I ask Irish citizens not to be bullied, not to give their democratic rights away, not to give up their say over Irish economic policy and not to write austerity into the Constitution,” said Mr Adams.

He said a strong No vote would strengthen the hand of those arguing for a better, fairer way forward through investment in jobs and growth. “Voting No is the positive and the patriotic thing to do. Voting No means standing up for each other and standing up for Ireland,” he said.

More than 3.1 million people are entitled to vote in the referendum and polling stations will be open from 7 am until 10pm. Only people who are on the electoral register are entitled to vote and it is too late at this stage to get on the register.

Voters may be asked to produce photo identification at polling stations. Acceptable documents include a driving licence; employee identity card; student card, or passport.

Counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow and a result is expected by early evening.