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Yesterday's 'winners' may yet end up as losers

IF last year's general election was a pencil revolution, then this campaign had more of a gun-to-the-head-at-the-ballot-box feel about it.

The Government may have won the battle yesterday but when it comes to the war -- the trust of the electorate -- the stability treaty campaign has left many casualties behind.

In that respect there are elements of a Pyrrhic victory here. The relentlessly negative campaign had so many people switching for the 'off' button. At the end of all the debate, people felt just as confused.

Junior minister Brian Hayes attributed noble motivation to the voters yesterday when he said that Irish people had put their country first. Labour minister Joan Burton probably came much closer to the reality saying she had never come across as many unhappy Yes voters and unhappy No voters.

The Government certainly ran a coherent, if heavy-handed, campaign -- managing to shake off the disarray and 'amateur night' feel of the water and property charge fiascos. But its political capital has been seriously depleted.

Scared

There are many voters now who feel they were scared into voting Yes, rather than believing it was a sound decision.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny played to his strengths by deciding not to debate, or to do a live appearance to discuss the treaty. But this tactic could well work against him in the longer term.

It may have been a Yes result but the Sinn Fein party will still be pleased overall with how it managed so effectively to use the campaign to its own political advantage.

It was an opportunity for Gerry Adams to raise his own profile, which had lagged somewhat in recent times, for Mary Lou McDonald to cement hers, and for Pearse Doherty to make his way to the High Court within 72 hours of his wife giving birth to their fourth child in Donegal.

Fianna Fail is still a long way off from taking a lead in anything, but this campaign can be considered good for them. Leader Micheal Martin said the party had taken a "principled stand on what was good for the Irish people".

He also did well to silence Eamon O Cuiv in his opposition to the treaty. And the result gives Fianna Fail a little reason to celebrate -- it's been a long time since they had anything close to that.

Irish Independent Supplement