Today, Ireland goes to the polls to vote a yes or now for the Lisbon Treaty referendum with Ireland's electorate deciding the future structure of the European Union. The polling stations or ionad votala will be open until 10pm today. High voter turnout is expected. For me, I am still undecided on which side should win. Both sides have presented valid points to support their side. With talking to my friends and co-workers they are divided about 50-50. So at this point I can't even speculate on wether the Yes or No side will win this election, although if I was a betting man I would say the Yes side will win by a small margin.
For first time in the State's history, more than three million voters will be eligible to cast their ballots in a European referendum. The electorate stands at 3,051,278 as of February 15th, 2008.
Those casting their ballots may be asked to show a passport, driving licence, employee identity card or student card. They will be given a white ballot paper, and those who approve of the Treaty should mark X in the square beside "TÁ/YES" while those against it should mark X in the square beside "NÍL/NO".
The State's voters were encouraged by those campaigning for and against the Lisbon Treaty to go to the polls today to cast their ballots on what Taoiseach Brian Cowen described as an important date in Irish history. Ireland is the only EU country to hold a referendum on the treaty, with other states ratifying it in parliament.
The Taoiseach cast his vote in Mucklagh National School in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at 10am.
Brian Cowen refused to comment directly on the referendum result but said he was confident.
“It is an important issue for the country . . . a referendum by its nature is about change in our constitution, and our citizens should take that seriously, and hopefully, as I said, as many people as possible come out to vote,” Mr Cowen said.
Mr Cowen said the No campaign had not conducted such a campaign “given the level of misrepresentation and worries that people were articulating to me in response to issues that clearly weren’t in the Treaty at all”.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny voted at the Powers Centre, Castlebar, Co Mayo, while Labour leader Eamon Gilmore cast his vote at Scoil Mhuire National School, Shankill, Co Dublin.
Speaking after he voted, Mr Kenny said the referendum was a "moment of truth, an exceptionally important day for the people of Ireland.
"I hope that as many [voters] as possible turn out. I think that there has been a change of attitude in the last 10 days in that people have begun to focus on the reality of what the Treaty is about, what it means for this country, what it means for Europe and the challenges that we face within the European Union and beyond on a global scale".
Earlier today, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin voted at St. Patrick’s Hall, Monaghan town. Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald vote at 11am in Scoil Thomais, Castleknock, Dublin.
Ms McDonald said she believed the vote would be very tight and that the Yes camp probably believed it had the edge. However, she said the most important thing on polling day is that Irish people get out and exercise their democratic right.
"This is a very important vote, it is to ammend the constitution and whatever way people have decided, it is abslutely critical they come out and vote.
"I hope we have a big turnout, I hope the rain holds off and anyone who is waivering I would encourage them to come out and use their democratic right and cast their vote.
"People are sovervign in these matters. It is not for political parties to decide, these are unique opportunities for people to exercise their democratic voice," she said.
The votes will be counted on Friday at centres in 43 constituencies. At the completion of each count, each local returning officer will inform the referendum returning officer, who will be based at St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, of the result from their constituencies.
The referendum returning officer will tot the constituency result and declare the overall result, which should be known by late afternoon.
A broadcasting moratorium on the Lisbon Treaty is in place, and all political activity will be prohibited close to the polling stations for the duration of the poll.
The prohibition on political activity applies to the grounds in which the polling station is situated and within 50 metres of any entrance to the grounds.
The moratorium is aimed at ensuring that fairness and balance are achieved by broadcasters during the referendum. It is also intended to allow voters a period of reflection in the final stages of the treaty debate.