Tomorrow, Iris Oifigiuil, the State’s official publication for notices, will publish the official results of the Childrens Referendum held on Saturday and there is then a 7-day window for anyone to challenge the results in the courts. The betting on here is that there will in fact be a challenge following the Supreme Court judgment last Thursday which upheld a challenge to the use of public money by the Government to promote a “Yes” vote. The Supreme Court judgment, which was handed down less than 48 hours before polling started, reversed a High Court judgment the previous week – we still await the full reasons for the judgment at the Supreme Court and these are expected imminently. Pundits have now suggested that any imminent challenge to the Childrens Referendum result will face an uphill battle despite the Supreme Court ruling, this after the failure of the so-called McKenna judgment in 1995 to be held to be sufficient to overturn the results in the referendum on divorce where the “Yes” and “No” sides were very evenly balanced and ultimately just 9,000 votes separated the two sides out of 1.6m votes cast. The McKenna judgment refers to Patricia McKenna’s victory in the courts forbade governments from spending public money to promote one side in a referendum.
But for now we have the results of the Childrens Referendum which were as follows (with the results of the Fiscal Compact referendum in May 2012 and the Divorce Referendum in November 1995 for comparison)
I think it would be fair to say that many people have been shocked by the results of the Childrens Referendum where opinion polls and betting odds suggested it would be a landslide victory for the “Yes” side, where there was nary a poster to be seen across the land for the “No” side, with the “Yes” side supported by 164 of the 166 members of the Dail – Mattie McGrath was the only true opposer, we are not supposed to know what An Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett thinks. Billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney was understood to be financially supporting the “Yes” side as was, in spirit, the Church (mostly), the media and as far as I could see, most professionals involved with children. The most prominent proponent of the “No” campaign, John Waters can hardly be regarded as a totemic figure with national influence.
So what on earth went wrong?
The view on here is the surprisingly large “No” vote is down to complacency about the result PLUS a general turn-off with politics.
The complacency about the result might be attributable to those, including on here for what little it’s worth, who feel that the pre-existing Constitution did provide for the adequate care of children and that it was new legislation, application of existing legislation and funding that was needed to better the lot of children, not an amendment to the Constitution. So even if the Amendment was voted down, the feeling, perhaps, was that it wouldn’t mean a great deal. There were also the opinion polls which suggested the “Yes” side would win 85:15 and Paddy Power offered odds of 1/33 for a “Yes” win, that is, a €33 bet would win you €1.
The results of the most recent opinion poll to measure party support suggested that a large number of people couldn’t or wouldn’t identify any political party or grouping deserving of their vote. Satisfaction with all party leaders is down. That’s understandable, we’re still in an economic mess and Fine Gael and more surprisingly Labour have continued the policies of Fianna Fail, and there doesn’t seem to be any widespread confidence that Sinn Fein would do any better. Of those who do express a preference for a political grouping, Fine Gael, the main party in power, remains tops with 30-35% of the vote.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad this year – in his address to the nation last December 4th, 2011 he stated “next year, we will hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad” and it is remarkable that after Saturday’s surprise, some have been quick to suggest we should delay future referenda until we figure out what happened. Nice try, senators and aspirants to being senators, or those who see the Seanad as a political safety net or source of party funding! It is hilarious to hear those suggesting a delay to the Seanad’s abolishment referendum until such time as we’ve established if the result was down to the referendum being held on a Saturday. Whilst the country faces into this present level of crisis and distress and whilst we are reliant on bailout funding from Denmark which abolished its own Seanad in the 1950s, your days are numbered Senators!