EUROPE’S leaders were keeping an anxious eye on Ireland last night as the outcome of the Lisbon treaty referendum was left hanging in the balance.
The final turnout tally looked like it would clear the 45% mark when the votes are counted today — putting participation somewhere between the Nice 1 and Nice 2 polls.
Yes campaigners had been hoping turnout would break 50%, believing that would aid their cause, and some monitors predicted that target would be touched.
The first Nice treaty in 2002 was lost on a 35% turnout and it took a 50% participation rate to pass the second version of it four months later.
Slow morning and afternoon voting did pick up as people returned home from work in the evening, with some middle-class parts of Dublin experiencing brisk interest.
In Munster, urban areas saw busier polling stations than rural ones, with turnout in Limerick city and east expected to top 50%.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen cast his vote early at Mucklagh NS, Tullamore, Co Offaly, where he said he had led the Government’s campaign as well as he could.
“It is an important issue for the country, a referendum by its nature is about change in our constitution, and our citizens should take that seriously. We’ve conducted a positive campaign, an honest campaign,” he insisted.
TV crews from across Europe were readying to broadcast the result across the continent as it is announced at Dublin Castle.
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald who fronted the party’s no campaign said she expected the result to be very tight.
“People are sovereign in these matters. It is not for political parties to decide, these are unique opportunities for people to exercise their democratic voice,” she said.
The votes from 43 constituencies will be counted at regional centres. At the completion of each count, the local returning officer will inform the referendum returning officer, who will be based at St Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle, of the result from their constituencies.
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