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Two thirds of voters endorse Lisbon II


'I CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH': Mary Coughlan, pictured taking a call at the Donegal South West count, Ballybofey, refuses to be blamed for her constituency's No vote

'I CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH': Mary Coughlan, pictured taking a call at the Donegal South West count, Ballybofey, refuses to be blamed for her constituency's No vote

'I CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH': Mary Coughlan, pictured taking a call at the Donegal South West count, Ballybofey, refuses to be blamed for her constituency's No vote

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was left acutely embarrassed by the failure of her home constituency of Donegal South West to back the Lisbon treaty yesterday.

Ms Coughlan, who spent many hours on the campaign trail in the northwest, couldn't hide her disappointment as her home base voted by just 171 votes to reject the treaty for a second time: by 15,794 votes (50.3 per cent) to 15,623 votes (49.7 per cent). Last time out the No vote in Donegal South West was one of the highest in the country, with 63 per cent rejecting the treaty.

Ms Coughlan said she did not believe the failure to secure a Yes to Lisbon in her home constituency reflected badly on her. She said she and her party colleagues had done all they could in Donegal South West, adding: "I can only do so much."

She said it was too early to assess why people in her constituency had voted no but she suggested that fears over issues such as abortion, the minimum wage, and "some people disgruntled with the Government" were factors.

Voters in Donegal North-East also rejected the treaty, by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, with the No vote particularly high in the Inishowen peninsula.

Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said: "The people of Inish- owen see themselves as being in the 33rd county. They feel Dublin governance isn't working for them.

"Businesses all along the border are struggling to survive because of the VAT differential. I think people are laying down a marker here."

Inishowen-based Senator Cecelia Keaveney (FF) added that a leaflet circulated widely outside churches in the peninsula by a group calling itself the Fatima Rosary Group had put "the fear of God" into people with its claims of abortion, euthanasia and conscription.

Leading No campaigner, Sinn Fein's Padraig Mac Lochlainn, attributed the result to what he called the "healthy scepticism" of Donegal people towards the EU.

But while Donegal rejected the treaty, it was soon clear that across the 43 constituencies, voters had been convinced by the Government and main political parties and the extra guarantees secured since the last referendum.

Two out of three voters have endorsed the second Lisbon treaty: a 20 per cent swing to the Yes side since the first referendum 15 months ago. In all, 67.13 per cent voted Yes and 32.87 per cent voted No. That meant that 1,214,268 voters approved Lisbon II compared with 594,606 who voted No to the treaty.

The higher-than-expected Yes vote was described by the Taoiseach Brian Cowen as a "good day for Ireland and a good day for Europe". Speaking on the steps of Government Buildings, he said the electorate had "done the right thing for our own future and the future of our children".

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The strong Yes vote is the first good news the Taoiseach has had in many months. As well as relief at clearing the Lisbon hurdle, he appeared personally buoyed by the ringing endorsement of the treaty.

"On this day the full and final credit for this victory rests with the Irish people," he said. "They showed an Ireland embracing her future with Europe. Ireland is ready to grow and prosper. Today's vote will help us achieve a common aim: a prosperous, productive and forward-looking Ireland. We will now apply ourselves to achieving that with imagination, determination and courage."

Libertas leader Declan Ganley conceded defeat shortly after 11am. "This is a very convincing win," Mr Ganley said at the RDS in Dublin. "Of course I am disappointed, I think we've made a mistake."

Socialist MEP Joe Higgins declared that an "unprecedented well-financed grand coalition of the political establishment, big business, most of the print media and the EU authorities" delivered a Yes vote.

UK Independence Party (Ukip) leader Nigel Farage, who entered the Irish debate calling for a No vote, compared the Lisbon treaty referendum with a corrupt election in Zimbabwe or Afghanistan.

South Tipperary was the first constituency to deliver its result on Lisbon, with 68.42 per cent for the treaty and 31.58 per cent against.

Last time South Tipperary rejected the treaty, with 53.2 per cent against and 46.8 per cent voting Yes.

Larger urban areas came out strongly in favour. Clonmel voted 66 per cent to 34 per cent, while Tipperary town, the home base of Junior Minister Martin Mansergh, voted 69.31 per cent in favour.

Cahir, where Fianna Fail's Deputy Mattie McGrath is the sitting TD, voted 71.29 per cent in favour. Deputy McGrath said: "The economy is in a very serious situation. Whatever chance we have with Europe, we have no chance being out on our own, and that is what the people decided."

Just over 70 per cent voted Yes in North Tipperary -- a big difference from the last occasion, when the No vote won by 132.

Last time out, Dublin North West was one of the bigger strongholds of the No campaign with 64 per cent voting No. This time around the Yes side secured 55 per cent of the vote -- hardly a ringing endorsement, but still a 21 per cent increase for the Yes side compared with 2008.

In Dublin North East, 63 per cent of voters said Yes to Lisbon -- with the middle- class heartlands of Sutton, Bayside and Raheny all strongly in favour. Former government minister Dr Michael Woods said the high No vote in the lower income areas reflected the economic difficulties that people faced.

One of the biggest swings from No to Yes occurred in Kerry North. Local TD Jimmy Deenihan said the result showed voters had recognised the bigger issues.

On Friday Libertas founder and No campaigner Declan Ganley voted No at Briarfield National School in Galway East, but he was in the minority at the polling station where the electorate voted solidly two to one in favour. Of the 340 votes cast in Briarfield, 237 were in favour of ratification, with just 103 against.

Ballinasloe, Tuam and Loughrea all recorded a substantial majority in favour of ratification.

In Galway West, urban and rural voters across the sprawling constituency, which includes Galway city, backed Lisbon. Many parts of Connemara returned a 2:1 majority in favour of ratification --in contrast to the last Lisbon referendum when there was an 85 per cent No in parts of Connemara.

An increased turnout saw Wexford issue a resounding Yes vote. Having voted 54 per cent No in the last referendum, the Wexford constituency showed a 65.2 per cent Yes vote this time.

Cavan Monaghan voted 62 per cent in favour, but some polling booths in Monaghan recorded a high No vote -- perhaps reflecting a protest vote over the failure of the Government to prevent the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital. The home base of Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain also polled strongly against the Lisbon treaty.

Kildare North went against the national trend and voted 55 per cent Yes last time; this time it went three to one in favour. Junior Minister Aine Brady said she believed that appeals to support the treaty -- made by big employers, including Intel and Hewlett Packard -- was influential.

Louth had one of the strongest No votes last time out, with 58 per cent rejecting Lisbon. Yesterday the Yes campaign secured 61.2 per cent.

Fine Gael deputy Fergus O'Dowd said, "This is a very mature decision where the people of Louth put their anger at the Government to one side."

In Meath they had more than votes to count. A lady who voted in Curragha School, near Ratoath, accidentally put her driving licence along with her vote into the ballot box on Friday. Yesterday morning, she turned up at the Meath West count in Trim GAA club with her tale of woe, but from there she was diverted to the Meath East count in the Claremont stadium, Navan, where officials had been warned in advance to look out for the licence.

Count centre manager Kevin Stewart said it wasn't the first time that they had had unusual requests in relation to foreign objects in ballot boxes.

"Down through the years we have recovered a passport, a gold pen, hair combs and even a wedding ring."

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