A DRAMATIC swing in tallies has left the Government's Seanad abolition campaign hanging by a thread in Cork as Dublin looks set to reject the proposal.
Early tallies in Cork had indicated that both the Seanad abolition and Court of Appeal referenda would be easily carried in Cork.
Inner city ballot boxes opened by 9.30am revealed the 'Yes' vote for the Seanad's abolition was between 4pc and 10pc ahead of the 'No' campaign.
However, as suburban boxes began to be tallied, the margin tightened to the point where there is now less than 4pc between both camps.
With over one-third of all ballot boxes now tallied in City Hall, Cork North Central showed 52pc in favour of the Seanad's abolition compared to 48pc against.
In Cork South Central - where there are almost three times as many people who qualify to vote in Seanad elections - the margin is reversed with 52pc voting in favour of keeping the Seanad compared to 48pc in favour of its abolition.
Fine Gael tallymen who had initially predicted that both referenda would be carried now admitted that the Seanad abolition vote could be defeated if trends continue throughout the remainder of the ballot boxes to be sorted.
The vote in favour of abolishing the Seanad remains significantly higher in working class areas of Cork than in middle-class districts.
"It is impossible to call. It certainly is a lot tighter than anyone would have predicted," Jerry Buttimer (FG) TD said.
In Dublin, boxes were opened in the RDS at 9am for all the city constituencies.
Based on early tallies, working-class areas are strongly No, while some middle-class areas are also going No.
Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys has already called the Seanad referendum defeated, based on boxes from areas like Ringsend and Sandymount.
However, other constituencies are more evenly balanced, but still leaning towards No.
Tallymen in Dublin North-East and Dublin North-Central say it is close at the moment, with the No nudging ahead.
In Cork, a number of spoiled ballots were indicated indicating that there was some confusion over the voting papers.
Fine Gael TD David Stanton admitted that there was a significant mix of apathy and confusion on some doorsteps.
He said that, during one canvass, a voter approached him and asked: "What is the Seanad?"
By Fiach Kelly and Ralph Riegel