Children's Referendum passed by thin margin of 58c to 42pc
Published 11/11/2012 | 09:48
THE children's rights referendum has been passed by a narrow margin, with final results from all count centres across the country showing a result of 58pc in favour versus 42pc against.
The turnout varied in the 43 constituencies but overall reached a very low 33.49pc.
In real terms, 1,066,239 people voted - out of a total electorate of 3,183,239.
The number of invalid papers was 4,645, meaning a valid poll of 1,061,594
The number of votes in favour of the referendum was 615,731. The number against was 445,863.
Three constituencies actually voted No - Donegal North East by 60pc, Donegal South West by 56pc and Dublin West by 50.4%.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the Yes vote as a "historic day for the protection of children in Ireland".
Ms Fitzgerald said the decision of the people would give a voice to children and ensure that their rights were better protected.
"I'm delighted they have supported this," she said.
Ms Fitzgerald played down the implications of the high No vote. She said there was often a No vote of 30pc in a referendum regardless of the subject matter.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "I welcome the positive result of the Children's Referendum. It is a historic day for the children of Ireland as it is the first time the Constitution of this Republic will recognise them as citizens in their own right.
“I thank the Irish people for exercising their democratic right to vote and I would also like to thank the various organisations that campaigned for a Yes vote.
“This Government has a deep commitment to families and children. The passing of this amendment will help make childhood a good, secure and loving space for all our children. It will also give hope, reassurance and confidence to parents, foster parents and vulnerable children.
“The Government will now move forward with the implementation of the decision of the people."
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin says the scale of the No vote should give cause for thought in Government circles, adding that he believed the referendum outcome was damaged because the wording was "deliberately held back".
Nonetheless, the result will be a relief for the Government in the wake of the debacle of the Supreme Court ruling against its information campaign.
But it seems a confused and apathetic electorate ignored last-minute pleas to "get out and vote" and sent out a clear message to Government that they had botched the referendum.
Despite good weather, voter turnout was embarrassingly low in many parts of the country in the first Saturday referendum vote since the second Nice Treaty more than a decade ago.
The question now arises whether the Government's information blunder - and subsequent Supreme Court ruling - contributed to the low turnout.
But from 9am when the polls opened -- an hour later than normal in a move designed to save some €500,000 -- it was clear that the turnout would be abysmal.
Former Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty -- an early and vocal opponent of the need for a children's referendum -- said it was impossible to say why turnout was so low but it was clear that many voters were confused.
"I said my piece that I felt this referendum was unnecessary and that all the protections required are be found in an existing article of the Constitution."
Asked if he felt that people were unclear, he said: "I am sure that is so."
Polling was described as "the slowest and lowest on record" in the border constituencies, with less than 6 per cent recorded across these constituencies by lunchtime.
In Dublin Central there was a similarly apathetic response to the referendum.
Despite repeated calls from politicians on social media like Facebook and Twitter by the times polls closed, some areas in Dublin South and West reported turnouts as low as 20 per cent.
Voters had to resort to casting their ballot by candle light and mobile phone lights in some polling stations in south Co Dublin, because of a power failure. The ESB say a fault caused power outages in parts of Blackrock, Monkstown, Foxrock and Leopardstown.
In Cork, turnout was between 30 and 38 per cent in the city, while in Cork county the average turnout was one in four.
The turnout in North Tipperary averaged at between 28 and 30 per cent, while in Co Waterford the average turnout was 30 per cent. In Sligo/ North Leitrim the average was 20 to 30 per cent.
Across Galway, the figures were between 17 and 30 per cent, while in Wicklow average turnout at 9.30pm was at 30 per cent.
Average turnout in Donegal South West was 23 at 9pm, while in Donegal north east the averages were much lower at between 12 and 20 per cent.
In Co Kildare the 9pm turnout was between 17 and 28 per cent, while Limerick city averages were among the highest at 34 per cent.
Cavan/Monaghan turnout was much lower at 18 to 25 per cent, while in Co Wexford the turnout was between 19 and 30 per cent by 9pm.
In Co Clare, the turnout was 25 per cent at 9pm, Carlow/Kilkenny reported turnout of 32 per cent, while Co Longford reported just over 20 per cent.
On Friday, the Government was forced to take down its referendum website for a second time after the legal team behind the successful challenge in the Supreme Court warned it would apply to the court again to shut it down.
The campaign website, childrensreferendum.ie, was removed on Thursday but a shortened version was later published. Solicitors representing Dublin engineer Mark McCrystal, who took the challenge, wrote to the Government demanding it be shut down again.
A No result and even a narrow vote in favour will result in serious political recriminations over the fiasco -- not least an examination of the role of Attorney General Maire Whelan in clearing the wording of the information booklet, that was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court.
Minister Frances Fitzgerald will also come under the spotlight, as will legal advice given to to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Senior ministerial advisers and civil servants who prepared content for the website and booklet that failed Supreme Court scrutiny will also be in the firing line.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be pressurised in the Dail this week to make a full statement on the information campaign.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) vetoed a planned discussion on the campaign due to take place on the RTE 1 radio show Saturday with Claire Byrne.
Ms Byrne explained to listeners that while they had not planned to discuss the substantive issues of the referendum, the BAI had decided that a discussion on the circumstances surrounding last week's successful constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court could breach the broadcasting moratorium.
Earlier yesterday a complaint was made to RTE by a prominent No campaigner over early morning news bulletins which stated: "Voting is under way on the Children's Referendum, which proposes amending the Constitution to recognise and affirm the natural rights of all children."
Richard Green of the Christian Solidarity Party said he complained to the RTE newsroom through the duty editor that this was, in their view, an inaccurate and partisan summary of the referendum, biased in favour of a Yes vote.
Later RTE radio bulletins and the station's website were amended and the phrase "which proposes amending the Constitution to recognise and affirm the natural rights of all children" was absent.