Votes were being counted in Ireland Saturday after a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty — a controversial agreement, already rejected once by Irish citizens, which lays down rules for governing an expanded European Union.
Results of the referendum were expected later in the day, with both the government and main opposition parties saying they were optimistic of a “yes” response. The European Union has made assurances to Ireland that the Lisbon Treaty will not affect the country’s abortion laws or its neutrality and that Ireland will keep a European Commissioner. Just more than half — 53 percent — of Irish voters said “No” to the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008, throwing the future structure of the European Union into doubt as all member states have to ratify the treaty before it can be adopted. Lisbon is the plan to modernize the EU’s structure after it expanded to 27 members, with most of the new member states coming from Eastern Europe. Ireland has just one percent of the EU’s population but its “no” vote effectively stopped adoption of the Lisbon Treaty across the continent. No other EU citizens have been allowed to vote on the treaty as national parliaments have ratified the treaty. And to date only Poland and the Czech Republic governments have held up the final passage of the treaty in their own countries. But Ireland’s constitution mandates citizens must be allowed to vote on any major changes to its own governmental structure.