Turnout low for treaty referendum
Voter turnout in Ireland's referendum on the European fiscal treaty has been reported as low across the country.
As polling stations closed at 10pm and counting starts, the percentage of those casting ballots was estimated overall to be in the high 30s. An electorate of 3.1 million were eligible to have their say.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was among the first to cast his vote as to whether the country should ratify the controversial agreement to impose stricter budget controls.
Turnout in Dublin averaged at 38%, with averages in the north west counties around 20%, and the commuter belt in Leinster well into the 30s. In the Cork area in the south, turnout was also as described as slow through the day but picked up into the 30s in the evening.
Similar patterns were reported in the western counties and midlands with a few higher results in parts of Limerick. The earliest indication of the result is expected no sooner than mid-morning, when the political tally men start estimations from the 43 constituencies.
Turnout is crucial with low voter numbers in two previous European referendums giving the anti-treaty side a huge boost. Ireland's record is unpredictable, having rejected the last two at the first vote only to accept the EU reforms in a re-run the following years.
Mr Kenny cast his ballot at St Patrick's National School in Castlebar, Co Mayo, alongside his wife Fionnuala while Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore voted in Shankill, south Dublin.
Elsewhere, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, one of the key figures in the anti-treaty camp, was out early casting his ballot in the constituency of Louth where he moved to from Belfast to contest the Republic's 2011 general election.
On Wednesday night both Mr Kenny and Mr Adams made their final appeal for support. The Taoiseach said a strong Yes would send a message that Ireland is on the road to the recovery and that it would help continue the strong flow of investment into businesses seen over the last few months. He said: "While there are still difficult challenges ahead, I hope people will vote Yes to continuing the progress we've made together."
Mr Adams' final message to voters warned that the treaty would not solve the eurozone crisis and would put into the Constitution the failed austerity policies. He said: "I ask Irish citizens not to be bullied, not to give their democratic rights away, not to give up their say over Irish economic policy and not to write austerity into the Constitution."