Yes side set for referendum victory




The referendum to enshrine children's rights in the constitution looks set to pass, early results have indicated.

The first wave of results from the 43 constituencies suggested the Yes camp would win through at around 55% - a narrower margin than had been expected by the Government.

Among the earliest confirmed results, protest votes were recorded in both Donegal constituencies, similar to the experience in last year's European referendum.

Donegal South West recorded a 56% No vote with Donegal North East even more resounding with a 60% rejection.

Both constituencies saw low voter turnout of 24%, however.

Despite this, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the anticipated Yes vote.

"The people, it would appear at this point, have spoken in favour of the referendum and it looks like a two-to-one endorsement of a new article in the constitution to protect children," said Ms Fitzgerald.

"It is a historic day if the tallies are correct. People have come out and they have supported the proposal."

Elsewhere, in a number of border constituencies there were reports of spoiled ballot papers voicing support for Sean Quinn, the bankrupt former billionaire jailed for contempt as the former Anglo Irish Bank chases him for debts of €2.8bn.

One ballot paper in Cavan-Monaghan was reportedly spoiled with "we want fair play for Sean Quinn".

The public went to the polls yesterday with officials estimating an overall voter turnout of around 30%.

Despite one of the lowest turnouts in referendum history, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was satisfied that the proposal would pass.

"I think this is a day to celebrate," he said. "I'm very pleased with the result."

Mr Shatter also insisted he had accepted the Supreme Court ruling that Government money should not have been used to promote a Yes vote.

"I think it was very, very important that in the circumstances where a Supreme Court judgment was delivered on a serious issue that that was not confused with what people were voting on," he said.

Voters had gone to the polls just 48 hours after the potentially damaging court ruling.

It deemed the Government's use of public funds had been wrong and that extensive passages on information leaflets had breached rules of fairness.

The court said public funds cannot be used to promote a vote one way or another, based on the 1995 McKenna judgment.

Counting of votes from the 43 constituencies began at 9am this morning. The final outcome is expected this afternoon.

Results will be fed through to the Referendum Returning Officer Riona Ni Fhlanghaile at the central count centre in Dublin Castle.

If passed, the proposed new Article 42a will see children's rights for the first time recognised in Ireland's constitution to ensure their protection.

It addresses issues including adoption and the right to hear a child's views in protection proceedings.

All political parties - both in Government and Opposition - have campaigned for a 'Yes' vote, as well as leading children's charities the ISPCC, Barnardos, the Children's Rights Alliance and lobby group Campaign for Children.

The 'No' camp includes former MEPs Kathy Sinnott and Dana Rosemary Scallon, the Parents for Children Group and journalist John Waters, who has campaigned for the rights of fathers.

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