So, the campaign winds down amid the expected haze of last minute debates and statements. It has a depressingly negative few weeks in Irish politics and has been the worst referendum campaign, from both sides, in my experience.
The indications are that this referendum will be answered “Yes” by the majority of the Irish electorate, albeit a “Yes” vote that is less then what it was a few weeks ago. The “No” campaign has eaten away at the “Yes” sides support, and has managed to get a good few of the “Don’t Know’s” on their side, but it is unlikely to be enough. I would expect, and in fact predict, a positive response somewhere in the 55-58% level.
The only way that can really change is by the effect of two possible factors: the “Don’t Know’s” coming out decisively on the “No” side, thus illustrating the ineffectiveness of polls for this kind of exercise, or a very low turnout more greatly favouring the more committed “No” campaign.
In the first case, issues of last minute scaremongering, confusion about the Treaty (which historically always tends to lead to “No” votes in referendums) or just plain cases of coming off the fence in relation to the information being given out could result in a late surge to the “No” side. I do in fact think that this will occur but not to the extent that it will affect the result to a decisive degree. It has a been a campaign of a large “Yes” lead being slowly chipped away, and I expect that will continue all the way to the end, just not enough to get a “No” victory.
In the second case, a low turnout is bound to more positively affect the “No” side. Disillusionment, confusion, negative tactics, can all combine to make people apathetic about the issue and stay at home on voting day. The importance of this referendum has been emphasised by both sides, but it remains to be seen how much of that message has actually penetrated the heads of the electorate. In referendums of a European nature, the “No” side always tends to be more committed – “die hard” for lack of a better term – and more likely to go out of their way to vote. In that, the “No” side might actually be cursing the great weather the country is experiencing, which always tends to have a depressingly disproportionate effect on turn-out.
In terms of what’s actually be going on in the campaigns, it all became somewhat circular a while ago. Joan Burton refuses to rule out a second referendum being required, which I think is telling, while Sinn Fein continue to flounder as the leading “No” party, seemingly more obsessed with the publicity then in actually getting a coherent viewpoint out. Declan Ganley, for all his faults, has at least attempted to provide that. The Taoiseach’s absence from the main stage, save for a pointless address to the nation late on in proceedings, is troubling and indicative of some major problems in the coalition.
The rumours today that some rather bad news is coming next week – in terms of Bus Eireann apparently – is troubling, and a shocking indictment of a government that is doing everything that it can to insure a “Yes” vote, to the extent that they are covering up bad economic news which could directly impact on people’s views of an economic treaty. That’s not fair to the electorate and you can bet everything you have that it is something that I will remember.
Anyway, the campaign is done and all that is really left is to decide the matter. If you have a vote, I, as I always will do, encourage you to take the time tomorrow and use it, regardless of your viewpoint or feelings. The ability to vote is more than a privilege; it’s a gift, one that we should not disrespect by ignoring it.