Monday 23 October 2017

Fine Gael fears low turnout will scupper hopes of winning vote

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny faces a nervous wait this morning for first indications of votes in the fiscal treaty referendum after a disappointing low turnout yesterday.

Large tracts of the country will struggle to hit a 50pc turnout rate as further evidence of confusion among voters emerged from polling stations.

A low turnout often suits the No side, as the outcome of the first Nice and Lisbon referenda have shown.

Fine Gael made a frantic attempt late yesterday to get people out to vote.

Figures in Government did not appear as confident that they had secured a Yes victory.

The early tallies are expected shortly after the counting of votes begins at 9am today.

The wet weather in parts of the country had kept voters away in the morning, but the turnout failed to pick up much more in the evening and the predicted teatime rush passed by with a whimper.

The turnout is not expected to top 50pc and low turnouts in the first Nice and Lisbon referendums were blamed for those No results.

Across the country, there was still anecdotal evidence of confusion among voters, with many people still uncertain about what way to vote, even as they entered the polling stations.

However, the Yes camp is hopeful it had a better organisational network which in turn helped get its voters out.

In previous campaigns, the bad weather affected the turnout in working-class areas, which are more likely to vote No. Last night, Fine Gael appealed to party activists to boost the turnout. "Turnout very low so far. Important to get your vote out. Please contact family and friends and encourage them to vote this evening," the party messaged.

But Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O'Brien pointed to the previous low turnouts favouring the No side in Nice 1 and Lisbon 1.

"So here's hoping again," he said.

The country's 3.1 million voters had from 7am to 10pm last night to cast their ballots, but turnout was significantly below both the general election and presidential election of last year.

In Mr Kenny's home county of Mayo, the turnout was only reasonable. And despite the best efforts of Finance Minister Michael Noonan in recent weeks, there was widespread disinterest among voters across the Mid-West region.

In Limerick, JFK national school was reporting the best turnout in the city at 32pc by 5.30pm.

However, some other polling stations there had a turnout as low as 13pc at the same stage.

Meanwhile, in north Tipperary, heavy rain kept voters away from polling stations most of the day.

And in Co Clare the average turnout was reported as low with under 30pc of the electorate casting their votes by 6pm.

Irish Independent

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