Ireland at the polls - Will Lisbon sink or swim?

Well, that question is really impossible to answer, as the polling stations only opened at 7am this morning and are due to close at 10pm tonight.

Recent polls differed on who held the upper hand. Both sides agree that it is likely to be a tight race.

No campaigners are hoping for a low turn-out, while the Yes campaign know they have to motivate and get their people out of their offices and houses to carry the referendum through.

The Lisbon Treaty issue is quite odd really. 2.8 million registered voters in Ireland, of whom probably less than 50% will vote, are to determine the future shape of a European Union that consists of 490 million+ citizens in 27 countries, 18 of which have already ratified treaty in their parliaments (being too fearful to put it to their electorate). The French and Dutch voted No to the EU Constitution 2 years ago, yet the Lisbon Treaty, in substance, is the same document.

Working class and more rural voters overwhelmingly voted No in France and Holland in 2006, whereas urban, more middle-class folk voted Yes. The social class breakdown of the pre-referendum polls in Ireland are very similar, and therefore the regional breakdown of turn-out throughout Ireland today will have a huge influence in terms of who will end up victorious.

If the No camp win, it is unclear whether EUrocrats will go back to the drawing board to hammer out a new treaty which they will then attempt to ratify in the future. Or, a repeat of the Nice referendum debacle in 2001 may occur, when the Irish, who initially voted No, held a second referendum a year later and 'dutifully' voted Yes.

One way or the other, all European eyes are on Ireland over the next 24 hours.

The issues which will swing the vote either ways are hard to judge. Many Yes voters seem likely to not vote on the content of the treaty, which few have read and even fewer can digest and comprehend, but rather on whether they are content with Ireland's place in Europe. The No side is a diverse bunch, including the only political party to campaign for a No vote, Sinn Fein. Their key points are loss of sovereignty and the death of Irish neutrality.

Free marketeers Libertas, an astro-turf campaign with close connections to US military aviation charter services, is fearful of tax harmonisation, which would damage Ireland's favourable tax system for multi-national corporations.

Statist leftists and anarchists are against the treaty for a range of issues including increase in national military expenditure, EU army intervention forces, fear of privatisation of public services, centralisation of power in Brussels.

Right-wing Catholics are against the treaty as they are afraid the European Court of Justice will over-rule Irish sovereignty regarding abortion law.

With a downturn in the Irish economy and tightening up of the labour market, many working class voters are fearful of Polish and other EU immigration to Ireland threatening their future employability.

All these and much more are factors in today's referendum.

Only time and turn-out rates and geographical spread will determine the much awaited fate of the EU constitution/Lisbon Treaty.


Damien Moran said…
The poll booths are closed. The count starts at 9am. Estimated turnout is 40%.

According to 'voting was heavier in urban than in rural areas......turnout was higher in middle class than in working class districts, which would be in line with normal election and referendum patterns.'

This is also good news for the Yes campaign. All the same. it seems o close o call a this stage. Tomorrow evening should see definitive results.

But if you Polish and reading this you really don't care cause tonight that dumb referee robbed your team's amazing effort against Austria, and instead of having your first victory in a Euro soccer championship, you had to be satisfied with a draw.

Roll on Monday, when Poland faces Croatia.

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