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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Six key constituencies to watch in today's referendum count

There’s a couple of bell-weather areas which, if the past is anything to go by, could give a hint as to the total outcome.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

TRYING TO PREDICT the outcome of an election is, by definition, an imperfect science – even a well-constructed and wide-ranging exit poll can be skewed by confirmation bias, or simple reluctance from voters to reveal their true vote.

That’s why it’s only really on the morning of an election count – when all secrecy goes out the window, and the ballot papers are there for the world to examine – that you can really begin to trust what you read in the tea leaves.

So while the nation’s political classes scurry to count centres around the country – and while we ask you to vote in our straw poll on the outcome – here’s a quick guide to some important areas where the tallies can provide a good hint of the outcome.

Donegal South-West/North-East

The two Donegal constituencies were the only ones to remain opposed-at-large to the Lisbon Treaty during the second referendum in 2009 – but their history of being anti-governmental goes further back.

Pearse Doherty steamrolled to by-election victory in 2010, while the four Fianna Fáil seats (out of six) in the 2007 general election were reduced to just one in 2011. What’s more, even in the easily-passed referendum on judges’ pay last October, the two constituencies were among the ones with the highest rejection rates.

If the Yes vote holds up well here, it’s likely to be a good sign of nationwide approval.

Dublin South East

Something that got lost in the furore about the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum being defeated in October is the fact that Dublin South-East – a constituency where all four TDs are from the government parties – gave a hefty No vote in both cases.

Though one might joke about the 28-per-cent No vote on Judges’ Pay, suggesting that a significant number of judges and aspiring barristers live in the leafy part of the city, DSE had the biggest No vote anywhere in the Oireachtas Inquiries ballot – rejecting it 63 to 37.

Garret FitzGerald’s home turf was always a historically pro-EU patch, however: it only just rejected Nice I (50.7 to 49.3), and was comfortable in its Yes votes in the three European referendums since then.

Today will therefore be an interesting one – in an all-government constituency (including EU Affairs minister Lucinda Creighton), will the historical Europhilia pull through – or will a latent frustration uphold the anti-government rebellion?

Dún Laoghaire

The Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, takes on one of the most prominent anti-austerity campaigners in the country in Richard Boyd-Barrett.

Dún Laoghaire was one of only two constituencies to approve Nice I, with 53.6 per cent in favour, and comfortably approved it second time, as well as backing both Lisbons – but again, its recent history puts a dampener: the populous constituency had one of the highest rejections of the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum.

So – will stalwart local councillor Boyd-Barrett have tapped into what could be a more lingering rejection of the government’s performance, or will the Minister for Foreign Affairs have convinced his public of the need to approve the Compact?

(See also, in this regard, Dublin West: social protection minister Joan Burton and transport minister Leo Varadkar, versus ULA head honcho Joe Higgins.)

Cork South-Central

As goes Cork South-Central, so goes the nation – in each of the four EU referendums, and in the two held last October, this constituency’s split was almost equal to that of the country at large (a slightly more enthusiastic rejection of Lisbon I was the only significant deviation).

In this case, however, it’s a little more complex than that – because Fine Gael’s director of elections Simon Coveney, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, and the latter’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath are among the area’s five TDs.

In that light, we might expect a slightly more inflated Yes vote this time – though bear in mind that all three were on the same side in the last four referendums anyway. Either way, Cork South-Central could be an ideal bell-weather for the national mood.

Carlow-Kilkenny

If you’re looking for one more, watch Carlow-Kilkenny. The five seater – dominated by Phil Hogan, who has been keeping a low profile after the septic tank/household charge/water metering debates – tends to defeat things narrowly, and approve them wildly.

Nice 1 was a 48-52 split in favour of No, which corrected to a 67-33 split second time around; the constituency was one of the most evenly divided on Oireachtas Inquiries too, with a 49.3-50.7 rejection.

The two Lisbon ones are worth noting, though: in Lisbon I, the constituency was almost a dead heat – with the Yes side prevailing by only 4 votes out of 52,644. The second time it was 71-29.

Such a close contest is unlikely to be repeated, so if the Yes side builds a comfortable cushion here, it’ll fancy its chances for an overall victory.

Read: Counting of votes begins but low turnout may affect result

Poll: How did you vote yesterday?

In full: TheJournal.ie‘s coverage of the Fiscal Compact referendum

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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