Strong turn-out in Irish Republic

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The Independent Online
AMID fears of an embarrassingly low turnout in the Irish Republic's referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, Dublin ministers decided to give voters a telling off in advance.

Waving her schoolma'am's finger, the Tanaiste, or deputy premier, Mary Harney had said before polling began "right around the world people will be mystified" if it was a poor showing. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had spoken of voters having "an appointment with history".

In the event they need not have worried. Early reports confirmed an above normal turn-out for a referendum. The more mind-numbing Euro issues have recently got as few as 44 per cent of voters out of bed. Yesterday polling was more like a general election, with "Yes" campaign managers suggesting a 60 per cent-plus turnout was possible.

With a proven national preference for voting on a full stomach, morning was quiet, but Dublin, Louth, Galway and Mayo saw strong early showings, with some queues in the capital.

Polling had begun last Monday on Bere, Sherkin and Clear Islands off County Cork, where uncertain weather necessitates earlier preparations, while on Inishturk off Mayo, yesterday, a 100 per cent turn-out put all of eight votes in the ballot box.

In Dublin, from the Church Street polling station off the north quays over to working class Rialto and Crumlin, south of the Liffey, the range of voters was visibly broader than usual.

With little bruising debate to grab popular attention, the Republic's party leaders had gone for persuasion by photo-opportunity. Pro-peace sports stars were paraded one day, music stars the next. There was a women's peace train reunion, while the Dublin Lord Mayor's Mansion House was decked out with peace signs and white ribbon.

The result in the Republic will not be available until early this evening.