Early referendum returns in Ireland suggest Yes vote to Lisbon Treaty

DUBLIN, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The EU's Lisbon Treaty looks set to be passed by a decisive majority in Ireland, as tallies from around the country indicate a massive swing to the "Yes" side.

Although there are no official results yet, tallies everywhere are showing a big increase in support for the Treaty, RTE Radio reported.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said: "I'm delighted for the country. It looks like a convincing win for the 'Yes' side ... It's good for Ireland," he said.

According to electoral officials, the number of "Yes" votes have exceeded "No" in 41 of Ireland's 43 constituencies.

Tallies from Dublin South West indicate a clear "Yes" vote with60 percent of boxes open. The constituency had the highest "No" vote during the referendum in 2008 when the Irish overwhelmingly rejected the treaty.

All boxes are opened in Kerry North and tallies are indicating a 60:40 margin in favor of the "Yes" side with turnout more than 50 percent.

Indications from other constituencies appear to be the same -- the "Yes" vote is reported to be up everywhere and, so far, only Donegal North East has voted "No."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said: "It is an important victory for Ireland and for all of Europe."

Bildt, whose country holds the EU presidency, said that it was just a matter of time until the union "finally can push the button for the better European cooperation that the Lisbon Treaty will give us."

Count staff started opening ballot boxes at 9 a.m. local time (0800 GMT), and the sorting of votes is continuing.

As the ballot papers are being sorted, a clear picture is starting to emerge from tallies -- showing a decisive swing to the "Yes" side, but a final official result is expected at around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is expected to make a statement after the people's verdict becomes known.

"The people's decision is sovereign and, of course, that will be the case but I'm hopeful that we'll have a good outcome," he said.

During the previous referendum in June 2008, Irish voters rejected the treaty with 53.4 percent voting No and 46.6 percent "Yes" due to their concerns over Ireland's military neutrality, its opposition to abortion, and national rights on taxation.

In June, the EU took a major step forward, agreeing to provide legally binding guarantees to Ireland to overcome voters' misgivings.

The Lisbon Treaty, signed by EU heads of state and government in December 2007 in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, replaced a failed EU constitution, which was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

The charter must be ratified by all 27 EU member states and Ireland is the only EU member state to hold a referendum. So far, 26 countries have approved the document through parliamentary vote, but Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Czech President Vaclav Klaus have yet to sign it.


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