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Senate Referendum in Ireland

Referendum result shows degree of political fluidity in Republic


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The result of the Senate referendum in the Republic of Ireland is significant for a number of reasons. In spite of the fact that the Fine Gael party, the Labour Party, Sinn Fein and a number of independent deputies all called for a yes vote, the people rejected their exhortations and voted not to abolish the Senate.

Of course there was a low turnout, of course the proposal was defeated by a very narrow margin and of course many people simply voted against the government. Yet none of this should take away from the fact that the Irish electorate delivered a verdict indicating it has little confidence in how the affairs of the Republic are being managed by those sitting in Dail Eireann.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny put his personal prestige behind this measure. His party and his coalition partners in the Labour Party all campaigned for a yes vote. Sinn Fein campaigned for a yes vote. Several independent TDs campaign for a yes vote. In the face of this huge effort the people ignored them all and made a contrary decision.

Significantly, Dublin city proved to be the area, which demonstrated most clearly that it was not convinced by the arguments being made by almost all of the city’s Dail deputies. The capital showed itself, unsurprisingly, to be the key swing factor in this referendum and has thus rattled the confidence of all political parties in the area.

Elsewhere in the country, there was also evidence that people are not prepared  (on all occasions at any rate) to follow a party line. In Donegal for example, the people voted no in spite of five out of the county’s six deputies calling for a yes vote. Yet again, in County Louth, where Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams topped the poll at the general election, people rejected his call to support abolition of the Senate.

Obviously we should not read too much into this referendum. It was a demonstration of generalised disenchantment rather than a cry for action. Yet that in itself is noteworthy because it demonstrates a degree of political fluidity and uncertainty in the Republic that many of our elected representatives hoped was absent.

That this referendum has underlined the existence of an unpredictable political situation makes it an event of real significance.

© Tommy McKearney 2012                                                                                      email:    tommymkearney@me.com