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Why did Roscommon-South Leitrim vote No?

It was the only constituency to do so.


ROSCOMMON SOUTH-LEITRIM has come in for some criticism this weekend after it was the only constituency in Ireland to vote against the marriage equality referendum.

It led to a raft of criticism online for the region, which voted 51.42% to 48.58% against Friday’s referendum.

Author Marian Keyes tweeted, then deleted and apologised for this tweet:


All of this criticism comes despite the fact that more people voted Yes in Roscommon-South Leitrim (17,615) than in both Donegal North-East (16,040) and Donegal South-West (15,907) and that fewer people voted No in Roscommon-South Leitrim than in 13 constituencies.

Indeed, Donegal South-West went Yes by just 33 votes.

So why?

. Irish stars from Game of T Paddy McKenna (centre) Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

So why did the region go No? In an impassioned defence of his region, RTÉ presenter Paddy McKenna said it was a “disconnect” between what was happening in Dublin and the area.

Screwed over by government on issues like healthcare access, job creation and clean drinking water, these are not people who deserve that treatment.
Having canvassed voters’ opinions in the area in the run up to Friday, I noticed there was a disconnect with the Yes campaign and message that I hadn’t encountered in Dublin. Many rural people felt talked down to and alienated.
They felt shouted at. They got left behind by the Yes campaign which is worth reflecting on. A good example of the kind of polarising, elitist, ‘us and them’ attitude that divides rural and urban people.

One political figure in the area felt locals felt “ignored” in the run-up to the referendum and that possibly turned voters off.

However, independent councillor Laurence Fallon says it wasn’t a protest vote and that people should not be criticised for exercising their democratic rights.

I think it’s wrong to criticise people for the way they vote. In a democracy, people vote whatever way they think. I don’t think people voted in protest.
There are certainly occasions that happens, but I don’t think they did this time.

Form and culture

Gay marriage referendum PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Since its formation, the constituency has only voted no on the referendum on Oireachtas inquiries, voting Yes to abolish the Seanad, pass the Fiscal Stability Treaty, pass the Children’s Rights Act, establish the Court of Appeal and allow the government alter judges’ pay.

Culturally, it is a rural constituency that is overwhelmingly Catholic and has the oldest population in the country. While yesterday taught us not make too broad an assumption based on those things, the demographics meant that the constituency would always be close.

Fallon says a major problem in the constituency, not just in terms of the referendum vote, is the exodus of young people. Just 13% of all college graduates from Roscommon get their first job in the county.

Instead of condemnation, Kieran Rose of Glen today spoke of the “fantastic” work put in by Yes campaigners in the area to attain the number of votes they did.

Christina Finn / YouTube

Fallon agrees and says that the county “has a lot going for it” beyond the politics of Friday.

“But it needs job creation to help it keep its young people.”

First published 16.00pm Additional reporting Christina Finn. 

Read: Ireland has voted Yes to same-sex marriage

Read: How did your constituency vote in the marriage referendum?

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