They were the only EU nation to hold a referendum on the fiscal union pact promoted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And it appears to be headed for an easy victory.
Why would the Irish vote for more economic pain?
Public rejection could have blocked Ireland from receiving new EU loans once its 2010 bailout money runs out next year. It also would have sent political shockwaves through other eurozone members, where anger against austerity and bank bailouts runs similarly high but citizens are denied the chance to vote on the treaty.
Official results from more than half of Ireland's 43 constituencies demonstrated a decisive victory for the government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny, which courted unpopularity by insisting that Ireland -- already four years into a brutal austerity program that has slashed 15 percent from many workers' incomes -- had no choice but to vote in support of yet more cuts and tax hikes.
Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said he and other government officials did not consider the win a triumph, merely a relief. He said they encountered grave voter anger and worry while campaigning for a "yes," and he was determined now to help steer Europe away from austerity and toward investment in growth and jobs.
Gilmore's position puts Ireland on a renewed diplomatic collision course with Germany, which demanded the treaty's tighter deficit rules and insists that Ireland's nationalized banks repay their colossal debts in full.
It also appears that the Greek voter is going to vote for the austerity coalition that negotiated the torturous agreement with the EU and IMF last spring in the elections held later this month. It seems that people living in a democracy can make the right choice when confronted with an even more unpalatable option.