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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

As it happened: The Children’s Referendum count

We keep you up to date on commentary and local results as we await an official national result from the Dublin Castle count centre by mid-afternoon.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald at the final result announcement in Dublin Castle.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald at the final result announcement in Dublin Castle.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

WELCOME TO THE count of ballots in the Children’s Referendum. There was a low turnout yesterday – possibly creeping just above 30 per cent – on the proposal to amend the wording of the Constitution which relates to children.

As a result, we expect to be able to bring you an official result from the Dublin Castle count centre by mid-afternoon at the latest.

In the meanwhile, stay with us as we bring you commentary and local results…

11.11 – A quick round-up of the count so far? It looks likely that the amendment to the children’s referendum will be passed – but by a slimmer margin than had been expected.

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said this morning on RTÉ Radio 1 that while referendums/referenda* traditionally fail to attract a high turnout, a turnout that just scrapes past 30 per cent indicates that it is an issue the Government will have to work out in future.

She said that the likely ‘Yes’ vote meant it was “a historic day for the protection of children”.

(*Wondering whether it’s referendums/referenda? Gavan Reilly has previously thrashed this out here if you’d like to amuse yourself this morning.)

11.19 – Back to that low turnout. Early tallies show that Donegal South West is leaning towards a ‘No’ vote, as are some areas of cities that are traditionally low-income areas.

Is this a protest vote against the Government? Donegal, you might remember, has been the county with the lowest rate of compliance with the household charge – only around half of the 65,331 eligible homes have paid it there.

John Waters was claiming this  morning that the achievement of the ‘No’ campaign to which he belongs has been “spectacular”. It appears that he believes it was his arguments and those of his fellow ‘No’ advocates that swayed many people despite there being “no poster, no advertising, compared to the massive campaign of vested interests… to bully for a ‘Yes’ vote”. Oh.

11.20 – Mind you, John Waters, that doesn’t explain why one voter in Cavan spoiled their ballot by writing on their slip of paper:

We want fair play for Seán Quinn.

As far as we know, Seán Quinn is not a minor, and probably doesn’t have anything to do with the substance of the amendment under vote.

11.28 – It’s not just the polling stations that had tumbleweed blowing through them this weekend.

This was the scene at Dublin Castle at 10am this morning:

(Pic: Susan Daly/TheJournal.ie)

The lack of bodies is understandable though – as it is the national count centre, there will be no official overall result announced there until the rest of the country finishes counting and sends their final results through.

11.38 – What happens in a defeat? Well John Waters says:

I am not conceding defeat or being magnanimous. I spoke the truth. My argument doesn’t change because it has been defeated.

He also mentioned the possibility of a challenge to the vote, should the result turn out to be a ‘Yes’.

Certainly, the last-minute Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, which upheld the Mark McCrystal challenge to the Government’s website and booklet on the referendum as being “not fair, equal or impartial” must be an ongoing concern to those in power.

Dearbhail McDonald, the Irish Independent’s Legal Editor, predicted “huge sighs (of) relief” in the Government if the poll is passed, considering their “blunder”:

The spectre of a legal challenge, should the margin by which the referendum is decided be as narrow as it seems it will be, had not entirely dissipated.

11.39 – By the way, that Donegal South West ‘No’ vote? It has been confirmed.

No: 56.47 per cent.

Yes: 43.53 per cent.

11.48 – A second official vote in from Tipperary South and it’s incredibly tight, but in favour of the Yes vote:

Yes: 54.17

No: 45.83

11.51 – Notwithstanding that children’s rights are obviously a very serious issue, we couldn’t resist a chuckle at this quick response to news of the Tipperary South ‘Yes’ vote:

(via @dotski_w/Twitter)

11.56 – Interesting post from solicitor Simon McGarr on his blog this morning in which he attributes low turnout and a decline in support from earlier predictions for the Yes side to “a complete breakdown in trust”. He writes:

Anyone who appears to be part of the establishment- Journalists, politicians, campaigners, senators, solicitors, barristers- will not be taken at their word. The other side of that is that people who are completely outside the mainstream are given a hearing frequently unwarranted by the merits or lunacy of their arguments.

The post is worth a read – do you agree with him?

12.08 – Now. Isn’t this an interesting nugget from RTÉ… The station is reporting that a tally of postal votes for Wicklow – which are cast earlier in the week, and therefore before the Supreme Court upheld the challenge to how the Government disseminated information on the referendum – showed a much higher vote for ‘Yes’ than the votes cast all of yesterday did.

Did the Supreme Court ruling change some voters’ minds? Did it lessen trust in the Government and therefore in the ‘Yes’ vote they were lobbying for? Or do Wicklow postal voters just have a different outlook than those who were able to get to a polling station yesterday? Hmmm.

12.12 – Alex White, Labour TD for Dublin South and Minister of State in the Department of Health, said that he personally had heard people say that the Supreme Court judgement on Thursday actually had the opposite effect on their vote. He said this morning:

I’ve had some people who have said the opposite. I heard people say to me that they were concerned it would affect the result and make sure they would go out and vote ‘Yes’.

Did this happen to you? Did the Supreme Court decision have any impact on how you cast your vote yesterday? Or indeed if it affected your decision to go out and vote at all? I’d love to know – get in touch in the comments section.

12.17 – Meanwhile, strong words for Donegal from Labour Dublin City Councillor Rebecca Moynihan. She might be implying what we suggested earlier on this liveblog – that Donegal is beginning to get a reputation for protest voting. Is that a fair assessment? This is what Cllr Moynihan had to say:

(Via @RebeccaMoy/Twitter)

12.21 – And, as if they heard her, Donegal North East has just recorded an official ‘No’ to the amendment:

Yes: 41 per cent

No: 59 per cent

12.50 – Would you like to see the results of the tallies completed so far? Of course you would:

Carlow-Kilkenny - Yes
Yes: 59.2
No: 34

Cork North Central - Yes (just about)
Yes: 50.09
No: 49.91

Cork South Central - Yes
Yes: 59.5 No: 40.5

Donegal North East - No
Yes: 41 No: 59

Donegal South West - No
Yes: 43.53 No: 56.47

Galway East - Yes
Yes: 59
No: 41

Kerry South - Yes
Yes: 57
No: 43

Kildare North – Yes
Yes: 66.3
No: 33.7

Limerick - Yes
Yes: 59
No: 41

Limerick City - Yes
Yes: 61
No: 39

Longford-Westmeath – Yes
Yes: 55
No: 45

Sligo-North Leitrim - Yes
Yes: 56
No: 44

Tipperary North – Yes
Yes: 56
No: 44

Tipperary South – Yes
Yes: 54.17 No: 45.83

Waterford - Yes
Yes: 56
No: 44

12.55 – The latest result has one of the highest margins so far, in favour of passing the amendment:

Clare - Yes
Yes: 61.7
No: 38.15

13.04 – Remember we mentioned that RTÉ said a ballot paper in Cavan had been spoiled in favour of leaving a message of support for jailed Seán Quinn?

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, independent TD for Roscommon/South Leitrim, says that he has been in the count centre in Roscommon and that it’s happened there too, on three ballot papers:

(via @lukeming/Twitter)

13.07 – Where are we on the local counts? RTÉ political corr David McCullagh is tapping his toe. He must have a nice dinner waiting for him:

(via @mcculld/Twitter)

13.12 – Two more results go for the ‘Yes’:

Galway West – Yes
Yes: 62.2
No: 37.8

Roscommon-South Leitrim – Yes
Yes: 52.92
No: 47.08

13.15 – It looks like Louth is in with a ‘Yes’ vote – and it’s narrow enough:

Yes: 53
No: 47

13.23 – Meanwhile, there appears to be a controversy about people on the ‘No’ side not getting a fair hearing on various media – RTÉ “chose” to use John Waters most frequently, claims Alive magazine editor on RTÉ’s News at One radio programme.

Is this the case? Did you think that there were particular ‘No’ campaigners that we heard too much from, to the detriment of others on that side who might have had different arguments?

13.28 – It looks like we’re getting closer to endgame, folks. Laois-Offaly and Kildare South in, and the Dublin count centres are starting to flow their results now too.

Laois-Offaly – Yes
Yes: 53.7
No: 46.3

Kildare South - Yes
Yes: 57.8
No: 42.2

Dublin South Central - Yes
Yes: 54.9
No: 45.1

Dublin Central - Yes
Yes: 58.7
No: 41.3

Dublin North East
– Yes
Yes: 60.1
No: 39.9

13.44 – The remaining three Cork results are in:

Cork East - Yes
Yes: 56.1
No: 43.9

Cork North-West – Yes
Yes: 57.4
No: 42.6

Cork South West - Yes
Yes – 56.6
No – 43.4

13.55 – The rest of the Dublin counts (and one Co Dublin one….)

Dublin Mid West - Yes
Yes: 55.21
No: 44.79

Dublin North
– Yes
Yes: 64.8
No: 35.2

Dublin North Central – Yes
Yes: 63.3
No: 36.7

Dublin North West
– No (small margin of 137 votes)
Yes: 49.61
No: 50.4

Dublin South – Yes
Yes: 73
No: 27

Dublin South East – Yes
Yes: 71.9
No: 28.1

Dublin South West – Yes
Yes: 51.9
No: 48.1

Dublin West
– Yes
Yes: 61
No: 39

Dun Laoghaire - Yes
Yes: 71.9
No: 28.1

14.01 – All we are waiting for now is the final result from Meath West.

These are the others we hadn’t previously posted:

Cavan-Monaghan – Yes
Yes: 53
No – 46.14

Kerry North/West Limerick – Yes
Yes: 53.6
No: 46.4

Mayo – Yes
Yes: 53
No: 47

Wexford – Yes
Yes: 54.8
No: 45.2

Wickow - Yes
Yes: 60
No: 40

Meath East - Yes
Yes: 59.8
No: 40.2

14.04 – Here comes Meath West… so the final overall result is in.

The YES vote is passed by 169, 868 votes.

The Yes was 58 per cent; 42 per cent went for No.

14.10 – Those percentages in votes?

615,731 YES

445,863 NO

14.24 – In case you wondered in Meath West (you probably aren’t), it passed the referendum:
Yes: 53.26
No: 46.74

14.29 – The number of spoiled votes – despite the fans of Seán Quinn in Cavan and Roscommon (see our earlier postings on that) – was pretty low on a national basis. Of the 1,066,239 votes cast, there were just 4,645 spoiled votes.

But this has to be one of the most inventive ones. It has a condom stapled to the ballot paper, with the handwritten words:

If you can’t care for them don’t have them.

Sam Boal of Photocall Ireland spotted it at the CityWest count centre in Dublin.

14.45 – Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has been busy today – he was on BBC1′s Sunday Politics this morning and on the RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week. He is “disappointed” at the turnout and echoes Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald in her musings that the Government needs to look at why referenda turnout is generally so low.

This one was particularly bad though – a 33.5 per cent turnout and the lowest since the referendum in 1996 on refusing bail to certain people accused of serious crimes.

The Tánaiste has been saying today that he wondered if Saturday voting didn’t actually work. He said:

It may well be that people’s voting pattern works better with their working pattern than it does with the routine families have on a Saturday.

And yet, political science experts Jane Suiter and Theresa Reidy of PoliticalReform.ie have outlined why they believe Saturday voting is not the cause of low turnout (or at least not the main cause).

14.59 – Whatever the multitude and complexity of reasons for the low turnout, those who did vote would probably agree with Sineád O’Connor:

(via @NoMansWoman/Twitter)

15.17 – The ‘Yes’ side have been quick off the mark with their reaction. Naturally, it’s pretty positive.

We’ll be looking into what comes next – and who exactly turned out to vote – over the course of the afternoon so stay with TheJournal.ie.

Thanks for being with us.

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