Low voter turnout could give anti Treaty side the edge in referendum
COUNTING of ballots in Ireland's referendum on the European fiscal treaty kicked off at 9am this morning.
With a low voter turnout reported across the country, early indications of results from the 43 constituencies are expected mid to late morning.
And numbers casting ballots is crucial with low interest in two previous European referendums giving the anti-treaty side a huge boost.
Polling stations closed at 10pm last night with the percentage of people turning out to vote estimated overall to be in the high 30s.
An electorate of 3.1 million were eligible to have their say.
The first figures to be reported mid-morning will be from political tally men estimating results in count centres nationwide.
Official figures will be announced at the main result centre in Dublin Castle later in the day.
In a break from tradition, state broadcaster RTE will not be reporting an exit poll but three recent opinion polls have shown a 60/40 split in favour of the treaty among Irish voters.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was among the first to cast his vote yesterday as to whether the country should ratify the controversial agreement to impose stricter budget controls.
Ireland's record is unpredictable, having rejected the last two treaties at the first vote only to accept EU reforms in a re-run the following years.
The Taoiseach has said he was confident, but never overconfident, before polling day but his number two Mr Gilmore refused to make a call.
Only one Cabinet member nailed colours to the mast, with Labour's Social Protection Minister Joan Burton calling victory for the Yes as early as Wednesday.
Ireland is the only country in Europe holding a referendum on the treaty as it is obliged to put major EU reforms to the public test, according to the Constitution.
The treaty will come into effect with the support of 12 states, with or without Irish support.
Twenty five of the 27 European Union states have accepted the text of the treaty, with the exception of the UK and Czech Republic.
Only three states have ratified the treaty in full - Greece, Portugal and Slovenia - while Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Austria and Denmark have begun the process.
If passed, the treaty will see stricter budgetary rules imposed on member states and penalties for those that fail to meet them.
The objective of the treaty is also to keep a control on deficits and ensure greater checks and balances are in place for money in and out of each country.
The Yes camp, including the Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail parties, has argued that ratification will ensure Ireland has access to emergency funds from Europe should it require a second bailout.