Category: Archive

Nice panel says Irish electorate remains confused

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It will be the first time a national vote has taken place on a Saturday and the government hopes it will result in a much larger turnout, particularly among young people, who might work in cities but return at weekends to rural homes where they are registered as voters.
Saturday polls had previously been held for the Udaras na Gaelteachta elections in 1999 and the Tipperary North byelection in 2001.
An increasingly intense battle for votes has led to series of angry clashes as Ireland remains on only country in the EU still to ratify the treaty.
A No to Nice campaign poster saying “Same bad treaty, don’t be bullied” and with a picture of a man with a gun to his head has been condemned as “beyond the bounds of decency,” “irresponsible” and “offensive” by the government. Minister Tom Parlon said it was particularly distressing to families of victims of paramilitary violence or those dealing with the tragedy of suicide.
In the drive to try to sway or even engage the attention of the large majority of apathetic and confused people among the 3 million strong electorate, Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn promises a barnstorming campaign He said it would rival the original referendum battle in the run-up to Ireland first joining the then EEC in 1972.
Ahern wants Fianna Fail to approach it like a general election campaign. He warned that another rejection would be a “disaster.”
Research carried out for the Referendum Commission shows only 16 percent of people “adequately” understand what they will be voting on and almost a third are completely mystified and don’t understand it all.
The commission chairman, retired Chief Justice Tom Finlay, variously described the findings as “deeply disturbing” and “alarming.”
“In spite of a previous referendum on the issue and considerable media discussion, levels of understanding remain unacceptably low,” he said this week. “Lack of understanding was the single biggest factor at work among those which said they would not vote.”
Finlay heads the five-strong commission with a euro 4.2 million budget whose job is to try to explain the treaty and encourage people to vote.
In June 2001, Ireland sent shockwaves through European capitals when it rejected the treaty with 54 percent against in a constitutional referendum. Only 35 percent of the electorate bothered to vote.

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