The early tallies - and they are usually reliable - suggest a victory for the No campaign in the Irish referendum on Lisbon. If so, the result owes a lot to confusion and Cowen. The new Fianna Fail leader started well but went downhill quickly thereafter, substituting his foul tongue for serious debate and crudely attacking the opposition parties at a time when he needed their support.
The Yes campaign was shambolic, where the clever and well-funded No campaign caught the popular imagination. Instead of coming together with a consistent message and a seriousness of purpose, the main Irish political parties seemed more concerned to do their own thing, resulting in posters boasting dismal portraits of the party leaders and screeds of unco-ordinated reasons to vote Yes which were only marginally more readable than the text itself.
As with all such Irish referenda, many of the No arguments were specious and irrelevant to Lisbon; but when confusion replaced coherence on the Yes side, it was inevitable that many of them would be believed. But - aside from the European Commission and those seeking a more coherent structural organisation for EU bodies - the big loser from the Irish referendum is Brian Cowen, whose Biffo nickname will surely be uttered with feeling in the corridors of Berlaymont today.