Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 6°C
Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images Counting at the RDS in Dublin today

AS IT HAPPENED: The Seanad is here to stay as referendum defeated

“Sometimes in politics, you get a wallop in the electoral process” – Enda Kenny

THE SEANAD REFERENDUM was defeated today, a result that had not been indicated by any previous opinion polls but had been flagged on the doorsteps.

It was a tight count with the margins close in many constituencies. But Dublin – and much of the east coast – voted overwhelming against the proposed amendment to abolish Ireland’s second house.

Turnout at 39 per cent was low, but better than expected. We brought the results to you as they came in. Here’s how it went down.

Good morning and welcome to our referendum count liveblog as the ballot boxes are open across the country. It’s Hugh O’Connell here and together with Daragh Brophy and Rónán Duffy we’ll be bringing all the latest.

There were reports last night of some considerable confusion caused by the two ballot papers. Our own Daragh Brophy said people were confused by the different colours and which paper was which when he went to his polling station.

Here’s what voters were faced with when they went to cast their vote last night:

From the chairman of the Fine Gael party:

One Labour TD, Dublin South East’s Kevin Humphreys, is calling it:

Charlie Flanagan, the Fine Gael chairman, is on Morning Ireland and says that “we’ve really got to go back to the drawing board” on running referenda saying voters were confused when he was out and about yesterday.

“There was an element of confusion and I think the element of confusion is borne out in the wording of the ballot paper, ” he says, adding: “We don’t really simplify things that are straight-forward”.

Despite all this he then says it’s not a time yet for post mortems but does call for a permanent Referendum Commission to be established. Incidentally Environment Minister Phil Hogan said this week he hopes to do that at some point in this government’s term.

Also on Morning Ireland, Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane says that the whole referendum campaign was a “shambles”. No surprise there.

Labour’s Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan is also on Morning Ireland and says in relation to Kevin Humphrey’s tweet that “if Kevin says it’s a No in Dublin South East, then its a No in Dublin South East”.

He says he was meeting No voters most of the day yesterday. But what kind of company does he keep?

By the way some of you are already querying if its referenda or referendums when it comes to the plural of referendum. Our former colleague Gavan Reilly explains this very well indeed.

“I think an awful lot of political parties in Leinster House were surprised when the Taoiseach proceeded with this referendum,” says Fine Gael TD Simon Harris on Morning Ireland. He’s probably not wrong.

Early tallies indicate that it’s close and in Dublin there are lots of tallies which indicate a No vote there but it’s still too early to be definitive about anything.

Lots of chat about Dublin but here’s what Fianna Fáil activist Ken Curtin is tweeting from Cork:

Here’s our report on the confusion caused by the ballot papers.

As you may know Donegal is traditionally a part of the country that rejects whatever the government proposes. We’ve just heard our first reports from there on RTÉ which indicate it’s a No in Letterkenny to Seanad abolition but a “slight Yes” to the Court of Appeal referendum.

A Fianna Fáil stronghold looks set to reject Seanad abolition, according to Sinn Féin anyway:

So what do ye make of the confusion caused by the ballot papers? It’s been pretty active in the comments so far this morning and this is a flavour of what’s being said:

“Counting is under way in the Republic of Ireland on referendums to decide the fate of the Irish Senate, Seanad Éireann,” says this brief BBC News report this morning. We’ll have a look around to see if there is any other international coverage.

Conspiracies, conspiracies, conspiracies:

So at just after 10am, here’s what we know: Early tallies in Dublin indicate that the Seanad abolition referendum will be rejected in Dublin, but elsewhere it’s looking like a Yes vote.

But it’s still too early to call. It’s tight, that’s what we can say for sure.

“Mary actually raises a fair point,” Fine Gael TD Simon Harris agrees with Mary ‘Mammy’ O’Rourke on RTÉ One’s coverage of the referendum count in a rare outbreak of bipartisanship. They’re talking about the confusing ballot papers. Everyone on the panel appears to agree that the ballot papers are far too confusing altogether.

Whatever about Mark Daly’s tweet earlier here’s Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton doing a tally in the RDS this morning:

Pic: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

“It’s very early days,” says Richard Bruton on RTÉ One. Asked if there appeared to be a lot of No votes in government strongholds, Bruton says: “I don’t think you can detect patterns at this stage.”

He doesn’t look confident, if we’re honest.

Another pic of a pensive looking Richard Bruton…

If you’re interested in what’s happening in Wicklow, Stephen Kearon is keeping a live Google Doc right here. A very slight Yes there with a fifth of the boxes opened.

“I don’t think anyone can call the thing yet, and certainly not on Twitter,” says junior health minister Alex White on Morning Ireland saying it’s 55-45 No in Dublin South. “It seems to me to be trending No,” he says, at least in Dublin anyway.

Alex White was pretty despondent on Morning Ireland there. He cautioned that it is tight but appeared to admit the Seanad abolition referendum has been lost in Dublin at the very least.

On turnout, early tallies appear to indicate that it will exceed the 33 per cent that came out for the Children’s referendum last November.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald says “the Nos have it” in her own constituency of Dublin Central. She says it was a big mistake for Enda Kenny not to debate the Seanad referendum and to “rush this issue” and not put it the Constitutional Convention.

McDonald says that in the event of a No vote, it would “be a disaster for all of us” if the Seanad is not reformed.

“I would call on the Taiseach to very smartly, without delay to see out the precise manner in which that reform happen,” she says.

She says the matter should be referred to the Constitutional Convention. If it’s a No, that is.

On Morning Ireland, Fine Gael TD and deputy director of elections Regina Doherty says it is 55  to 45 per cent No in Meath East. “I wouldn’t be as definitive as Mary Lou [McDonald] is about an overall No,” she says.

As of now it’s looking like 55 – 45 in favour of Yes vote in Mayo, local Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary tells Morning Ireland.

So why is it so close when opinion polls showed a clear lead for the Yes? Well, because there were still a lot of undecideds as of late last week.

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI that was published on Monday and carried out late last week showed that over a fifth of voters were undecided. And Don’t Knows tend to swing to No, as appears to have happened.

At 11am it looks like Dublin will reject abolition of the Seanad but it’s still too close to call across the rest of the country and as a result we cannot say definitively which way it’s going to go.

NUI Maynooth lecturer and elections expert Adrian Kavanagh…

Senator David Norris is in studio with Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio 1. “The indications are looking quite positive for the Seanad,” he says.

Out in Galway West, it’s not looking good for this Fine Gael TD:

Here are a couple of more pictures from the count at the RDS courtesy of Photocall Ireland:

On RTÉ One, Alex White has conceded in Dublin but is not yet sure about the rest of the country.

Hugh O’Connell signing off now to head down to Dublin Castle. My colleague Rónán Duffy will take over liveblogging duties. Hope to bring you coverage from the Central Count Centre a little later.

Good morning, Rónán Duffy here. Well it’s looking far tighter than many predicted. We’re hoping for a result some time in the late afternoon according to those down in the count centre. A lot of votes to be counted and talking to be done first though.

Senator John Crown isn’t making any presumptions on RTÉ. He says the the ‘No’ side on which he was a prominent voice has a had a ‘positive’ start to the count. He speaks directly to Taoiseach Enda Kenny:

If there is a no vote, it must be seen by him as winning a mandate to bring about the reform we’ve all been working for.

Tallies all over Dublin still trending ‘No’, the capital looking fairly decided so far on the issue. Even in just eight words the Minister for Transport seems resigned to his constituency going against the government.

Hugh O’Connell here at the Dublin Castle Central Count Centre where it’s fairly quiet so far.

Former Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy Eames is around and says it looks like the referendum will be defeated in Galway West which is good news for her.

Meanwhile, we saw Leo Varadkar below resigned to a ‘No’ vote in Dublin West. His final tally is now completed: 53 per cent No, 47 per cent Yes.

“Sin é”, he says. Not quite nationally but we’re getting there.

Before today there have been four referendums during the lifetime of the present government. The current score is three Yes and one No.

The judge’s remuneration, fiscal compact and children’s rights referndums were passed but the Oireachtas inquires vote was defeated. Today is obviously still in the balance with voting on the Court of Appeal referendum due after the Seanad count.

Senator John Whelan has a theory about the uncertain start to counting

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s director of elections, has been speaking down at the count centre, saying that Fianna Fáil put forward “coherent arguments” which demolished Fine Gael and Sinn Féin’s position. No mention for Labour there interestingly.

The first constituency result is in for the Seanad vote! It comes from Galway East and the first numbers on the board are just about good news for the Yes side:


Tipperary South has competed it’s count now too and is extremely tight:

Yes: 50.41

No: 49.59

Here’s what Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins had to say at Dublin Castle a few minutes ago:

I think deep down, the people within Ireland, they value their political institutions, their democratic systems. Nobody was arguing for the status quo.

Limerick City goes Yes. Again tight.

Yes: 52.72 per cent

No: 47.28 per cent

The Taoiseach’s spokesperson has been in to see us here at Dublin Castle and says it’s “too close to call”.

State of play at this early stage:

Paddy Power are today calling the result of the Seanad Referendum early and paying out on a ‘No’ result.

This man down the count centre will be happy:

(h/t Fiach Kelly)

We have our first No of the day as Cork South Central goes with its local Fianna Fáil TD Micheál Martin:

Yes: 48.73 per cent

No: 51.27 per cent

Second result from Leeside, this time Cork North-Central:

Yes: 51.84 per cent

No: 48.16 per cent

Most decisive result so far from Kidare North:

Yes: 45.39 per cent

No: 54.61 per cent

That last result has put the ‘No’ side slighty ahead.

Results from Dublin which is tallying ‘No’ are expected to begin coming in from 2pm.

Kildare South is also against abolition:

Yes: 44.49 per cent

No: 55.51 per cent

Dublin South West has completed its count. It’s a no.

Yes: 47.68 per cent

No: 52.32 per cent

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis does his sums at the RDS. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

As is the trend around the city, Dublin Mid-West votes ‘No’:

Yes: 45.3 per cent

No: 54.7 per cent

It’s only 2 o’clock but the future of the Seanad is looking safer and safer.

Our first result from the north-west of the country comes from Donegal North-East:

Yes: 48.31 per cent

No: 51.69 per cent

Both Donegal constituencies were the only two in the country to vote against the Children’s Referendum last year.

First win for the ‘Yes’ side in the past 50 minutes but it’s by just 201 votes in Tipperary North:

Yes: 50.38 per cent

No: 49.62 per cent

Hugh O’Connell from the count centre says it’s “relatively quiet down here at Dublin Castle right now as the results start to tickle in.”
You want a graphic? Here you go:

If you’re from the Kerry North- West Limerick constituency here’s how you voted:

Yes: 53.84 per cent

No: 46.16 per cent

Leo Varadkar is on RTÉ One right now and points out that all panellists – him, David Cullinane, Mattie McGrath, and Niall Collins – appear to have lost their own constituencies.

He says that there is no appetite for reform given that most people did not come out and vote. He said he doesn’t agree that with the idea that a No vote is a vote for reform. “Most people aren’t that pushed whether the Seanad is reformed,” he says adding that he strongly favoured abolition. But it doesn’t look like he’s going to get it.

Turnout so far looks set to eclipse that of the Children’s referendum last November and is running at about 38 per cent at the moment.

The nationwide picture with 13 results in.

Green is Yes, red is No. Obviously.

Sligo North-Leitrim:

Yes: 50.76 per cent

Now 49.24 per cent

‘No’ campaigner Noel Whelan tells RTÉ that he “knew we were making ground over the last few days”. Slams government for “simplistic crude and inaccurate messaging about politics itself.”

Leo Varadkar is having none of it, says the proposal would have been passed if “turnout had been over 50 per cent.”

(Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Senator David Norris is very happy, he tells Miriam O’Callaghan that the Irish people have voted for democracy:

Enda has clearly put reform on the agenda, the Irish people have said that they want reform. It wasn’t on the ballot paper but it’s there now, you can’t remove.

He loves twitter as well appearantly. Thinks it’s amazing how he has managed to reach so many people online.

Senator David Norris is taking some slack online for saying that Seanad should remain “elitist”. He tells Miriam that he doesn’t want to Seanad to become a second Dáil, feels it should still be a forum for prominent people such as Professor John Crown.

Good afternoon. Sinéad O’Carroll here, taking over for the afternoon. The consensus seems to be that the referendum will be defeated but we’ll keep you updated as the results come in.

Dun Laoghaire result is a decisive no. 57.1 per cent No to 42.9 per cent Yes.

Leo Varadkar has been asked if the Taoiseach should consider his position.

“Not at all. This is a referendum on the Seanad,” he laughs. But he notes that the government need to start getting some referendums through if Ireland wants political reform.

And a result from Dublin North-West is in and we have another No from the capital.

NO 54.7 per cent

YES 45.31 per cent

So not tight there.

Another result from Dublin South - the last of the Dublin county constituencies. Out of a total of 46,855, there were 356 invalid ballot papers.

And it’s a No.

An update from the Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe in Wexford, where it is still too close to call.

He’s in the count centre where the returning officer has redistributed all counted papers to be rechecked again.

He has just tweeted this picture with the caption, “That’s how close it is #seanref”.

There has been no official word yet – nor has the government conceded defeat – but people are welcoming the Seanad Referendum ‘Result’.

The Union of Students of Ireland has just issued a statement saying a No vote it is a “extremely positive result for Irish democracy”. President Joe O’Connor, however, said that neither option given to the electorate offered political reform.

Let’s recap on the 26 results we have so far, if you want to find out where you’re constituency is at:

Clare: Yes 51.33 per cent

Cork North-Central: Yes 51.84 per cent

Cork South-Central: No 51.27 per cent

Donegal North-East: No 51.69 per cent

Donegal South-West: No 50.42 per cent

Dublin Mid-West: No 54.7 per cent

Dublin North: No 54.67 per cent

Dublin North-West: No 54.7 per cent

Dublin South-West: No 52.32 per cent

Dublin West: No 57.58 per cent

Dun Laoghaire: No 57.1 per cent

Galway East: Yes 51.37 per cent

Kerry North- West Limerick: Yes 53.84 per cent

Kildare North: No 54.61 per cent

Kildare South: No 55.51 per cent

Limerick City: Yes 52.72 per cent

Longford-Westmeath: Yes 51.02 per cent

Mayo: Yes 57.46 per cent

Meath East: No 52.58 per cent

Meath West: No 53.61 per cent

Roscommon-South Leitrim: Yes 51.67 per cent

Sligo-North Leitrim: Yes 50.76 per cent

Tipperary North: Yes 50.38 per cent

Tipperary South: No 53.46 per cent

Louth has also voted not to abolish the Seanad. The result is a solid 52.3 per cent for the No side.

A theory that is being put out there today is how complacent the ‘Yes’ side became in front of an apathetic electorate.

Twitter user James Doorley blames the polls.

12 of the 12 Dublin constituencies are in. And it’s a significant victory for those who wanted to retain the Seanad (or more correctly, probably, for those who did not want to abolish it).

NO: 55.6 per cent

Today FM’s Aingeala Flannery points something out…

At Dublin Castle, Senator Prof. John Crown says that the momentum swung to the ‘No’ side when people “saw through” the €20 million savings figure that Fine Gael were touting.

Hugh O’Connell at the Central Count Centre here, Michael McDowell has been speaking to the media at Dublin Castle and he’s had some strong words for Enda Kenny: “The real question is that when he brought it to the people why did it cease to be a personal leadership initiative? Why didn’t he lead when the Yes side required him to lead? That’s a matter for him to consider.”

The former Tánaiaste said now was a chance for reform: “He [Taoiseach] now has an opportunity to deliver on the basis that he has heard the people – through the ballot box – give an overwhelming rejection to the politics of cynicism and spin and this is a mandate now for him to reform Seanad Eireann, to make it what the people of Ireland thought they were putting in place when the enacted the Constitution back in 1937.”

More results are in … we currently have a ‘no’ vote in 22 constituencies and ‘Yes’ in 14 making the national picture look like this:

YES 48.4 per cent

NO 51.6 per cent


News just in from Dublin Castle. We’re expecting a declaration in the next half hour or so.

Some Yes votes have just come in with both Kerry South and Cavan Monaghan opting to abolish the Seanad. It looks like they’ll be disappointed though.

Kerry South: Yes 54.5 per cent

Cavan Monaghan: Yes 54.9 per cent

Micheál Martin tells RTÉ that the opinion polls “threw them” during the campaign, despite hearing from people that they were heading towards voting No.

Turnout figures at the moment look like they will sit at the 39.1 per cent mark. Higher than expected.

Did you vote? If not, why not? Let us know in the comments.

Cork South West is very tight. But it very, very narrowly goes to the Yes side.

Yes 50.9 per cent

This is all very exciting when it’s close, isn’t it?

Right now, we’re waiting on Carlow-Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford and Laois-Offaly.

We’ve heard Wexford is too close to call but Laois-Offaly will be a significant ‘No’.

Just realised we didn’t bring you the Dublin South East percentages. Voters were overwhelming against abolishing the second house.

No: 61.3 per cent

If you’re wondering where the Taoiseach is, he’s giving a talk at the Global Economic Forum – the conference of influential Irish people asked to put on the green jersey to help us out of our economic troubles.

We have a result from Wicklow and it is another significant No.

No: 57.82 per cent

And the result from Carlow-Kilkenny is in and it is another narrow No vote.

YES: 49.47 per cent

NO: 50.53 per cent

We are five minutes out from a declaration.

Although Mayo went with their Taoiseach, many Ministers lost the vote in their constituencies. The latest being Phil Hogan in Carlow-Kilkenny.

Lucinda Creighton is a happy woman today.

The declaration has come in. The referendum to abolish the Seanad has been defeated. Here are the important figures

Total poll: 1,240,729

Invalid: 14,355

Yes: 591,937

No: 634,437

Difference: 42,500

Some maths from @gavreilly:

The conversation now moves onto reform…

There was a total of 14,355 spoiled or invalid votes today. Earlier Senator Averil Power and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin were critical of people who encouraged voters to write ‘Reform’ at the end of their ballot papers.

It went down badly on the doorstep.

Here’s what the Taoiseach had to say on the defeat.

The leader of the Seanad Maurice Cummins has said that Seanad reform will be on the agenda after the Budget later this month.

The last results are in.

Wexford was as close as they said with a NO vote of 50.1 per cent

Finally, Laois-Offaly was 53.89 per cent YES.

In other-but-related news, Senator Rónán Mullen has confirmed his intention to fight for a seat in Europe, announcing that he will be a candidate in the Midlands-North-West constituency next year.

Here’s what he told us earlier.

A close call: In Wexford, where the winning margin for the No side was just 69 votes, there was 579 invalid votes.

The Taoiseach has said he is disappointed with the result in the Seanad referendum but added that he fully accepts and respects the outcome.

He says he will reflect on the best way the house can be used in the best way.

How many times has Kenny said ‘reflect’ during this interview? Answers in the comments section.

Enda Kenny also says he welcomes the result in the Court of Appeal referendum, which looks like it will be a resounding Yes.

The current position nationally is a 65.65 per cent Yes vote versus a 34.35 per cent No vote.

Defending his lack of campaigning on the Seanad Referendum, Kenny described it as a people’s issue and not a government party issue.

“Sometimes in politics, you get a wallop in the electoral process,” continues Kenny when asked if the defeat is a black mark on his leadership.

But he believes there is a virtue in following through with his promise to ask this question of the people.

“I think it is a bit early to give any detail on how one might reflect in an effective way in this matter,” he added when asked about any possible reforms of the Seanad.

“The process of change in politics is something we are going to continue with.”

He repeats the line about reflecting and assessing how best to use the senate.

Counting in the Court of Appeal continues, even though the Taoiseach has already called the result.

Just five official results in, all floating around the 65/35 mark in favour of setting up a new court. Still not sure what that will mean? Here’s our explainer.

Senators celebrate in Dublin Castle as the result is announced.

WATCH: The Taoiseach’s reaction to the Seanad referendum defeat.

We’re going to give the last word to the Taoiseach and wrap up today’s liveblog.

Counting continues in the Court of Appeal Referendum but there’ll be no surprises there. Here’s the state of play as of 6pm. Check later for the final, official result.

Thanks for staying with us throughout the day and for your comments, tweets and mails. Until the next amendment. Good evening.

PICS: Low turnout reported as voters decide on Seanad and Court of Appeal

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.