An abstention is not a No vote


Sir, – Dan Donovan asserts that 37 per cent of the UK electorate voting for Brexit represents “limited voter support” (January 2nd). Is Mr Donovan suggesting that no referendum should be passed unless at least half of those entitled to vote actively support the proposition on the ballot paper?

Under such a system, the Irish State could never have ratified the Single European Act or the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, Lisbon or the so-called “Fiscal Compact” Treaty.

People under 21 would not be allowed to vote, neither would we have legalised divorce or same-sex marriage, nor unconditionally abolished the death penalty nor enshrined any right to life for the unborn. I’m sure many of your readers support some of those amendments and oppose others, but that’s hardly the point.

If we require a simple majority of the electorate to support every proposed change, it’s a recipe for constitutional paralysis. Only a handful of amendments would ever have been approved. The Belfast Agreement of 1998, for example, would have squeaked over the line with just 52.5 per cent support.

An abstention is not a No vote. By abstaining on polling day you acquiesce to the majority decision of your fellow voters. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.