Ireland has strongly approved the European Union's reform treaty on the second attempt, the government and analysts have declared as partial counts of ballots indicated an overwhelming swing to the pro-treaty side. Electoral officials said "yes" votes were outnumbering "no" in virtually all of Ireland's 43 constituencies - the exact reverse of what happened when Ireland stunned Europe last year by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.
The foreign minister Micheal Martin, who directed the government's campaign culminating in Friday's referendum rerun, said it looked like Ireland would ratify the treaty with a "yes" vote exceeding 60 per cent nationwide. Official results are expected later today. "I'm absolutely delighted for the country. It looks like a convincing win on this occasion," Mr Martin said. "It's good for Ireland, because I do passionately believe our future is in the European Union - and there was no real reason to vote no." The Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, one of the few elected Irish politicians to campaign against the treaty, said the early returns made his side's defeat inevitable. Mr Higgins blamed what he called "one of the most unequal and unbalanced campaigns in our history", including pro-treaty interventions from business heavyweights Ryanair and Intel.
Many analysts said they were surprised to see early returns running at 60 per cent or more in favour of the treaty, following a bitterly contested campaign during which anti-EU campaigners again claimed that an empowered Brussels would raise Ireland's taxes, slash its minimum wage, force its soldiers into a European army and legalise abortion and euthanasia. The Trinity College Dublin political analyst Michael Gallagher said he was confident that at least 60 per cent of voters had said "yes", and perhaps up to 65 per cent.
Another analyst, Sean Donnelly, said "it looks like it could be a clean sweep" - with all 43 constituencies recording pro-treaty majorities. He said the change from 2008 was particularly startling in the eight districts that recorded "no" votes exceeding 60 per cent last time. *AP