Referendum fails to
engage local electorate

It attracted barely one third of voters and has come in for stinging rebuke for its failure to engage a seemingly dissaffected electorate.

It attracted barely one third of voters and has come in for stinging rebuke for its failure to engage a seemingly dissaffected electorate.

Yet for all its apparent imperfections, last Sunday’s children’s referendum count inside a near deserted Kenagh Community Centre had plenty of interesting undertones attached.

The undoubted headline was the look on the face of one tallyman who indicated to the Leader that Ballynacargy, the electoral stronghold of both sitting TDs Robert Troy and Willie Penrose had thrown up a surprising ‘No’ in opposition to the referendum.

This, as the Leader reports this week, may have been roundly rejected by Mr Troy, but it certainly added to a morning desperately short on political intrigue.

If that was mildly gripping, the same could also be said of tally figures from the likes of Granard (yes 75 votes, no 60 votes) and in particular Lanesboro.

Like its Co Westmeath counterpart where tally figures had to be taken on trust, one eagle eyed observer pointed to a somewhat surprising vote in favour of the ‘No’ camp (by 77 votes to 66).

Another box in Athlone followed likewise by just the one vote (54 to 53), but that, in truth, was as good as it got for those opposed to a change in the Constitution.

You could have been forgiven for thinking the yes side would have spent much of the morning savouring their success, albeit a marginal one.

In truth however they, like those in opposition, were largely absent with just local TD James Bannon and Co Cllr Paddy Belton in attendance.

The muted celebrations were undoubtedly masked by the decision of voters to stay away. Just over 30 per cent of those registered to vote marked their ballot papers across counties Longford and Westmeath last Saturday, some three per cent below the 33.49 per cent national average.

Of the 14,288 (55 per cent) who backed the referendum, 11, 748 (45 per cent) went against amending Article 42 of the Irish Constitution.

The lack of interest in the result and wider campaign locally was perhaps best summed up by one member of count staff who had his eye on other matters as he remarked:

“The Killoe match is at 2:30pm, I hope to be out of here before then.”