LAOIS/Offaly strongly endorsed the ratification of the EU Stability Treaty with almost two thirds of the electorate casting a ‘yes’ vote.
Only 51,654 (48.59%) of the total Laois/Offaly electorate of 106,297 turned out to vote on Thursday, marginally lower than the national average of 50.6%.
Voting in the constituency was roughly in line with national figures with 30,655 (59.64%) voting for the treaty and 20,741 (40.36%) voting against. There were a total of 258 spoilt votes.
The writing was on the wall for ‘no’ campaigners within an hour of the first boxes opening at the Tullamore count centre on Friday morning.
While defeated, Sinn Fein Deputy Brian Stanley described it as “significant” that four in ten voters had backed the ‘no’ campaign when his party was pitted against Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail and their ‘massive fear campaign’.
“I’d be happier if the ‘no’ side carried the day but I think it is significant that four people out of ten voted against,” he remarked.
According to Deputy Stanley, the ‘no’ side had victories in Daingean, Mountmellick, Portarlington and Portlaoise where some boxes sided with them. “I’m disappointed for the ordinary working people. This does send a signal to the right to continue with its policy of austerity.”
Deputy Stanley is convinced the government will now renew its focus on the household and septic tank charges which he said had been “put on ice” during the referendum campaign.
He concluded, “The Government promised much if this treaty was passed. They promised investment and jobs, relief on banking debts and an easier budget in December. For our part in Sinn Féin, over the coming months we will hold them to account on all of the promises that they made.”
Fianna Fail Deputy Barry Cowen described the result as a “vindication of the stance taken by those who supported the treaty.” However, he said, “While they voted ‘yes’ it was a tentative ‘yes’ in that they feel more needs to be done to advance our cause in Europe.”
He urged the government to look at the whole issue of investment and in particular what he described as “shovel ready projects” which could provide immediate employment.
Deputy Cowen felt the low turn-out showed that voters are not fully engaged. “People were not satisfied with the quality of debate and the Taoiseach’s refusal to debate the treaty or to be interviewed was a major mistake. The incredibly cynical approach taken by Sinn Féin and others in the ‘no’ campaign, where they misled voters about the impact of a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ vote, also caused major confusion and made people tune out.”
Although relieved, Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, whose son returned home from college to vote, had been quietly confident of a ‘yes’ vote.
While canvassing in the run up to the referendum, she said the people she had spoken with had been given the distinct impression that the treaty would be carried.
“Victory for the ‘yes’ side will now send out the message that Ireland is stable and a good place for foreign director investment,” explained Deputy Corcoran Kennedy.
She said the win would also ensure Ireland was eligible to access the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) should the need arise.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy added, “We haven’t solved all of our problems by voting ‘yes’ – there is a lot of hard work ahead - but we have taken a very positive step forward as we rebuild a working Ireland.
“The result clearly shows that the public were not taken in by the misleading campaign run by Sinn Féin and others.
“The result also ensures that future governments - no matter who is in power - will adhere to sensible budget rules. I strongly believe this is in our best interests as a country. As we gradually reduce our debt levels over the next two decades, we will have more money to spend on public services, like schools and hospitals.”
Although an official record was unavailable, tallies from the count centre suggested there was a rural urban voting divide with boxes from rural areas recording a marginally higher ‘yes’ vote.
Tallies for Tullamore showed urban voters came out 42% against and 58% in favour of the treaty while the rest of the Tullamore area had a 40% to 60% ratio of ‘no’ to ‘yes’.
The most dramatic of Laois/Offaly tallies came from Vicarstown in Co Laois where some 77% of the electorate were in favour of the treaty.
Counting concluded at the count centre shortly after 3pm and Laois/Offaly and Carlow-Kilkenny were the last two centres in the country to declare.
Count centre staff were thanked for their ‘tremendous work’ by Returning Officer Verona Lambe.