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Cablegate: Ireland Soundly Rejects Lisbon Treaty in Shock Result

VZCZCXRO8956
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHDL #0356/01 1651613
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131613Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9262
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBLIN 000356

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EUN EI
SUBJECT: IRELAND SOUNDLY REJECTS LISBON TREATY IN SHOCK RESULT

REF: DUBLIN 334 AND PREVIOUS

-------
Summary
-------

1. (U) By a surprisingly large margin, Irish voters today rejected
the EU Lisbon Treaty by 53.7 percent to 46.3 percent. The final
results were announced late in the afternoon. The 'No' campaign won
in 33 of 43 constituencies. No single factor has emerged as
decisive in the 'Yes' defeat. However, the overriding early
consensus is that the leaders of the nation dropped the ball. They
were not able to adequately explain a complex, hard-to-understand
document, counter snazzy opposition sound-bites, or overcome
complacency among those inclined to support the Treaty but who
stayed home. The challenge now for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen
- as he nervously awaits the EU reaction - is to provide a coherent
explanation of the Irish rejection and begin to rebuild fences with
the EU. Cowen's first steps in the post-Lisbon environment will be
to provide such explanations of the disappointing vote and his
thoughts on a way forward at the June 19-20 European Council
meeting. End summary.

----------------
The Poll Results
----------------

2. (SBU) Right from the earliest tallies the morning of the June 13
count of the Lisbon treaty referendum vote, the 'Yes' side was in
trouble. POLOFFs who visited a counting station were told of ballot
boxes containing few ballots and of decisive 'No' margins. As early
as an hour into the counting, the 'No' forces were declaring
victory. By noon, when POLOFF spoke with Government Chief Whip Pat
Carey, Carry woefully said it was hard to see how the 'Yes' vote
could win.

3. (U) The 'No' campaign won in 33 of the 43 constituencies across
the nation, with significant majorities emerging from rural and
urban working class areas. Waterford was the first constituency to
announce official results, where the treaty was rejected by 54
percent to 46 percent. The news did not improve for the 'Yes'
campaign. Kildare, Dublin South East, and Laois/Offaly (Prime
Minister Brian Cowen's constituency) were among the few
constituencies favoring the Treaty.

----
Why?
----

4. (SBU) Reasons abound why the 'Yes' campaign failed. In a poll
published by the Irish Times on June 6, 30 percent of voters said
they did not understand what the treaty was about. Other reasons
cited for voting against the Treaty that seemed to have grabbed the
attention of the voters were: a wish to keep Ireland's power and
identity (24 percent), fears that Ireland's traditional neutrality
might be jeopardized (22 percent), a fear that Irish farmers would
suffer from ongoing WTO talks (11 percent), and safeguarding the low
Irish corporate tax rate (5 percent).

5. (SBU) Political analysts told POLOFF that the reasons for the
failure of the 'Yes' campaign - largely run by the political parties
- was that it started too late (never overcoming the initial
momentum of the 'No' campaign) and that the Government failed to
explain the Treaty properly. Some say that the 'Yes' campaign
seemed to be mostly on the defensive, rather than touting the merits
of the Treaty to the electorate. There is no evidence the
Government suffered from a backlash on domestic issues, as was
feared before the resignation of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last
month.

6. (SBU) Not all the 'No' supporters are gloating. POLOFF spoke
with a senior Sinn Fein officer, who mused that the victory could
set Sinn Fein up as the Government's scapegoat every time something
goes wrong that could be linked to relations with the EU.

7. (U) Early in the afternoon, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal
Martin blamed a perceived lack of information for the failure of the
'Yes' vote to prevail.
Martin, director of Fianna Fail's referendum campaign, said that
people just didn't know enough about the Treaty. He said there was
a sense that the treaty "just didn't register" and "lacked a clear
tangible." He added there was a "general sense of giving away too
much power." Later the same day, Minister of Justice Dermot Ahern
stated, "It looks like this will be a 'no' vote. At the end of the
day, for a myriad of reasons, the people have spoken."

-------
Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The margin of the 'No' vote was surprising high given that
most of the political parties, trade unions, employers'

DUBLIN 00000356 002 OF 002


organizations, and farmers' associations endorsed it. However, no
single factor has emerged as decisive in the 'Yes' defeat. The
relatively high (for a referendum) voter turnout didn't help the
'Yes' side as predicted, highlighting the depth of 'No' support and
revealing Ireland's political elite as out of touch with the
electorate. (The political elites here have repeatedly touted a
high voter turnout as all that was needed for a 'Yes' victory.) The
overriding early consensus is that the leaders of the nation dropped
the ball. Their effort was too little, too late; they failed. The
challenge now for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen - as he nervously
awaits the EU reaction - is to provide a coherent explanation of the
Irish rejection and begin to rebuild fences with the EU. His next
major foray into the post-Lisbon environment will be when he faces
his EU counterparts at the June 19-20 European Council meeting. Due
to the high voter turnout, Cowen's options appear to be more limited
than when the Irish electorate, in a relatively low voter turnout,
rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001.

FOLEY

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