Collective sigh of relief as Ireland says Yes
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Friday 01 June 2012
If the Irish opinion polls are correct, there will be a victory for the Yes campaign when the votes cast in yesterday’s referendum on the European fiscal treaty are counted today.
But a random sample of voters in the border town of Dundalk yesterday indicated that while Yes supporters may have the stronger vote, those in the No camp still hold strong emotions.
“We're not a country like Greece for going out to riot and all that kind of thing,” said Dundalk health worker Andrew Carroll. “But I'm voting No to give two fingers up to the government.”
Philomena Fields, a mother of six children, described her No vote as “a protest against the government”. She said: “The government has made things worse, and now it couldn't get any worse for me… They cut left, right and centre. We have to live on €208 a week - how can you feed six children with that?”
Ireland is the only nation to hold a referendum on the treaty, which was drawn up in March in response to the eurozone debt crisis. If Ireland votes Yes to the fiscal pact, it would be accepting strict new budget rules, allowing Europe more power over its economy. If it votes No, it would be denied another bailout if needed.
The most poignant account of how the recession has impacted on the town - which is suffering high unemployment and has seen many shops and business closures - was offered by 62 year-old Rose Farrell, who has eight children.
Two of her children have gone to Australia, a third to America and a fourth is on the point of moving to Canada.
“One is a civil engineer,” she said, “and my lassie has a master's degree in marketing in business. So we educate them for the boat and the plane - it's either the dole or emigration.
”Families are all split up on account of inadequate government. I can't see them coming back, they're settled out there and they've good jobs. But it's the other side of the world, too far away for me to go and see them,“ she said.
Two of her four remaining children, meanwhile, cannot find work, so she is resigned to the fact that they too will be leaving the country. She was about to vote No, she said, but was agonising whether this might do her children a disservice.
Almost all working-class voters The Independent spoke to yesterday said they were against the treaty, whereas middle-class voter were mostly in favour. This is very much in line with patterns emerging from the opinion polls.
“I wouldn't be opposed to the government,” said one man arriving at a polling station. A middle-aged woman said her Yes vote “is important for the country, which is in a bad state.”
Another woman said: “I voted Yes, but I honestly don't know why; probably it was the responsible thing to do.”
A married couple in their late 70s, who said they were fairly comfortably off due to pensions, said they had voted Yes because of the government's argument that a No result might jeopardise future funding from Europe.
“I just think it's the sensible thing to do,” said the woman. “Voting Yes doesn't mean you have to take a loan, but it's nice to know that it's there if you want it.”
Exit Poll Axed: RTE Effects Cuts
Unusually there was no exit poll released by Irish national television last night as the polls closed at 10pm, after severe cuts to the budget of the state broadcaster, RTE.
The station has been told to find savings of €25m and one piece of expenditure that has been cut is parts of its referendum coverage. Instead, the results are expected to start emerging at lunchtime today, with a final result due by the early evening.
The station’s Director-General, Noel Curran, warned staff yesterday that the corporation is considering lay-offs and pay cuts. In an email, he told staff the next six months would be difficult. It has been reported that staff face a pay cut of as much as 4 per cent.
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