Saturday, October 03, 2009

Will it rise again?

"The European Union will find a way to implement the Lisbon treaty, leaving Ireland potentially isolated within the EU. And there will be another Irish referendum at some point, probably in the first half of next year."

That was the view (or expectation) of Wolfgang Münchau, columnist for The Financial Times, written on 15 June last year, three days after the Irish had gone to the polls, delivering a "no" victory with 53.2 percent of the vote, against 46.1 percent "yes".

Münchau was wrong only on the timing. And, with the polls having closed at 10pm last night, for the re-run, the Irish Times rushed out the results of a "preliminary" Fine Gael exit poll, which suggested 52 percent for the "yes" side and 48 percent for the "no" campaign. This was quickly revised to become 60 percent "yes" and 40 percent "no", which stands as the definitive prediction.

After the 2008 referendum, there was no published exit poll, but the results of an unattributed poll were circulating, claiming 54-46 percent in favour of the "yes" campaign, with a margin of +/-3. This, as we soon found out, was not to be.

As to turnout, the Irish Times is reporting that Dublin and Munster was substantially up "on last year", in contrast to many other parts of the country, where it was described as "slow and low". The total turnout across the 43 constituencies was reported to be about 50 percent by the time the polls closed, which compares with the 53.1 percent for the last referendum so, on the face of it, there seems to be little change. As before, there seem to be sharp variations in different constituencies.

The turnout was said to be particularly strong in Dún Laoghaire, which had the biggest vote in favour of the treaty in 2008. It was also high in Dublin South West, one of the constituencies with the biggest "no" vote last year. The turnout in commuter counties in Leinster, which have large populations of people working in Dublin, showed a sharp rise towards to close and was as high as 60 percent in some areas.

What no one knows yet is the influence of the "God effect". Last time, the "yes" campaign had the support of the Pope, whereas this time the Vatican seems to have turned away from the "project".

One could possibly draw inferences from the reversal, but it would be unwise to do so. Instead, I will remind you of the words of my co-editor who, in the aftermath of the "no" victory last year, wrote that the treaty was not dead. "It ought to be but it ain't," she added. "Dracula will rise from the grave again."

Until the thing has a stake through its heart, a silver bullet lodged in its brain, is buried under tons of soil taken from consecrated ground, sprinkled with holy water and ringed with crucifixes, it ain't never going to be dead. But whether it will rise again later today remains to be seen. The fat lady ain't sung yet.