Low turn-out as Ireland votes on European fiscal treaty

Carmelite nuns prepare to cast their vote in the European Fiscal Treaty Referendum at a polling station in north Dublin, Ireland. Credit: Press Association

Voter turnout in Ireland's referendum on the European fiscal treaty has been reported as low across the country.

As polling stations closed at 10pm and counting starts on Friday morning, the percentage of those casting ballots was estimated overall to be in the high 30s.

An electorate of 3.1 million were eligible to have their say.

Voters have been deciding whether to agree to European Union demands for Ireland to balance its books. The Polls suggest it is going to be close - but that the Irish have ultimately decided to swallow Europe's medicine. If they don't, they won't qualify for any European bail-out.

From Dublin Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was among the first to cast his vote as to whether the country should ratify the controversial agreement to impose stricter budget controls.

Campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum, he said that agreeing to the fiscal pact would accelerate the "flow of investment" from Europe.

He also said it would also give Ireland "guaranteed access" to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - a huge bailout fund for EU member states.

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams urged Irish voters to 'vote no', warning that it will diminish Ireland's control over its economic policy. He was cited in the Irish Times as saying:

"I ask Irish citizens not to be bullied, not to give their democratic rights away, not to give up their say over Irish economic policy and not to write austerity into the Constitution.

"Voting No is the positive and the patriotic thing to do. Voting No means standing up for each other and standing up for Ireland."

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adam casts his vote. Credit: PA Wire

Turnout in Dublin averaged at 38%, with averages in the north west counties around 20%, and the commuter belt in Leinster well into the 30s.

In the Cork area in the south, turnout was also as described as slow through the day but picked up into the 30s in the evening.

Similar patterns were reported in the western counties and midlands with a few higher results in parts of Limerick.

The earliest indication of the result is expected no sooner than mid-morning on Friday, when the political tally men start estimations from the 43 constituencies.

Turnout is crucial with low voter numbers in two previous European referendums giving the anti-treaty side a huge boost.

Ireland's record is unpredictable, having rejected the last two at the first vote only to accept the EU reforms in a re-run the following years.