Kildare has voted ‘yes’ in the Children’s Referendum.
Kildare North was the first of the county’s two constituencies to return its result, shortly after 12.15pm on Sunday afternoon.
The county voted solidly in favour of Amendment 42A, returning a 66.3 percent Yes vote against a 33.7 percent No vote. There was a 35 percent turnout in the constituency, with 26,970 people making their way to the polls.
Kildare South declared at 1.10pm, with fewer voters declaring in favour of the amendment. The result was a 57.8 percent Yes to a 42.2 percent No vote. Turnout was slightly lower than in North Kildare, with just over 33 percent (19,477 people) of those eligible casting their vote.
Referendum veterans counting the votes in Punchestown commented that it was one of the quickest counts they remember, with the lowest amount of votes involved.
Many of the 175 spoiled votes across the county were blank, indicating that voters were still confused when they got to the ballot box on Saturday.
All boxes for both constituencies were opened at the Punchestown count centre by 10am, and the count proper got underway shortly afterwards.
Early indications from informal tallies in Kildare North indicated that the referendum would be passed comfortably, with one box in Naas recording a 72 percent vote in favour.
The same tallies in South Kildare suggested that the No vote would be higher there. High numbers of No votes were observed in boxes from some parts of Newbridge and Kildare town. There were also high percentages of ‘No’ votes in some rural areas, including boxes in Lackagh (59 percent No); Castledermot (53 percent No) and Suncroft (60 percent No).
In contrast, one box in Ballymore Eustace indicated an 80 percent Yes vote there.
There was little of the usual political activity at the count centre this morning, with mainly Fine Gael party operatives out in force to conduct informal tallies.
Deputies Bernard Durkan and Tony Lawlor, Kildare Mayor Micheal ‘Spike’ Nolan and Cllr Paddy Kennedy were at the centre.
Deputy Durkan blamed the political consensus leading up to the referendum for the low turnout. “There was no discordant voices within the Oireachtas, and that gives the impression it’s a shoo-in, and of course we should always be very, very careful in a situation like that. I’d say the major fact was that there was no dispute about it in political circles... so everyone leaves it to everyone else in that sort of situation.”
Deputy Lawlor blamed the lack of a strong No campaign for the public’s apathy. “If there had been a more active ‘No’ campaign, I think it would have definitely engaged people,” he said. He also blamed apathy towards the government, and said that last week’s Supreme Court judgement “might have sent the wrong message out there.”
Cllr Paddy Kennedy said that Saturday was the wrong day to hold the campaign, and people on the doorsteps were not interested in talking about the issue.
Kildare Mayor Michael ‘Spike’ Nolan was critical of the government, saying “The campaign failed to ignite any sort of serious interest from the public”.
Referring to the circumstances which led to the Supreme Court judgement, he said: “Somebody had their eye off the ball, and somebody is going to have to pay a price for this.”
Nationally, turnout in the Referendum was 33%, one of the lowest recorded. It was passed with 58% of votes in favour versus 42% against.
- Laura Coates