Voters in both Donegal constituencies have chosen, by the narrowest of margins, to retain the Seanad.
There was a low turnout for the government’s Referendum on abolishing ‘the upper house’ yesterday - just 29% in Donegal North East and 30% in Donegal South West.
At the count centre in Bonagee, Letterkenny today, 16,900 votes were counted, with 51.6% voting no, to retain the Seanad and 48.3% voting in favour of abolishing it.
In a total ballot of 18,546 for Donegal South West, 50.4% voted against the proposed 32nd amendment, to abolish the Seanad, and 49.6% in favour.
Votes are still being counted in the Court of Appeals referendum.
Donegal North East
Donegal North East voted to retain the Seanad by a margin of 51.6 to 48.3 per cent, with more than 16,900 votes cast.
“The question was put to the people,” said Joe McHugh, Fine Gael TD for Donegal North East.
The 16,972 votes cast represented a little more than 29 per cent of the Donegal North East electorate. In the end, 8.097 people voted Yes, to abolish the Seanad, and 8,663 people voted No.
Earlier tallies had indicated the proposal to abolish the Seanad would be adopted in the constituency, though by a similarly slim margin. A tally of 13 of the 111 boxes in Donegal North East this morning had indicated 52.7 per cent would vote Yes.
It was quiet morning at the Letterkenny count centre.
Pádraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East, and Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal North East, also attended the Letterkenny count, as did Fianna Fáil Cllrs. Ciaran Brogan and Victor Fisher.
Deputy McConalogue said he believed a strong message had been sent to government that the people want to see “reform of how we do politics at the national level”.
Deputy McHugh said the government will take on board the voters’ concerns they heard during the referendum campaign. “The priority in the hierarchy of issues in this county is very much about jobs,” Deputy McHugh said.
Donegal South West
Donegal South West also voted to retain the Seanad, by 50.4 per cent (9,351 votes) to 49.6 per cent (9,195 votes), with a total 18,792 ballots cast.
This represented a 30 per cent turnout, and there were 246 invalid ballots.
Although the indications throughout the morning were that it would be a close call, the result surprised punters at the St John Bosco count centre in Donegal town. The trend in unofficial counts from boxes had fairly consistently shown a 51 per cent vote in favour of the amendment and a 49 per cent vote against.
When the official result was announced at 1.30pm, most politicians present expressed the view that the people of the country wanted reform, not abolition of the Seanad.
Thomas Pringle, Independent TD, told the Democrat: “I think it shows clearly that there was a mood amongst the people that, if there had been a reform option, it would have been carried substantially. I think that’s the lesson that the government should take from this.”
Minister for State Dinny McGinley TD (Fine Gael) said “The future of the Seanad is now off the political agenda and the government will be focusing again on the real economic difficulties we have and solving them. Whatever the implications of this result, they will be studied and acted on.”
Senator Brian O’Domhnaill (Fianna Fáil) added: “The people have spoken: they’ve shown that they want democracy and the Constitution to be preserved. They wanted another option in this Referendum, which is what Fianna Fáil had been saying from day one.”
Also present at the count centre during the day were: Cllr. John Boyle, Cllr. Mick McMahon, Cllr. John Campbell and Cllr. Diarmaid Doherty.
See Monday’s Donegal Democrat and People’s Press for in-depth coverage.