Weather depresses Meath East byelection turnout

Helen McEntee of Fine Gael and Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fáil are joint favourites

Fine Gael candidate Helen McEntee casts her vote in the Meath East byelection at Heronstown national school in Lobinstown. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fine Gael candidate Helen McEntee casts her vote in the Meath East byelection at Heronstown national school in Lobinstown. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 06:00

Heavy snowfalls and unseasonally cold weather have contributed to a low turnout for the Meath East byelection with fewer than 35 per cent of eligible constituents believed to have voted.

As polling stations closed at 9pm, some sources predicted the turnout would not be much more than 30 per cent. Fine Gael sources said the figure might be a little higher, closer to 40 per cent.

The last comparable election was the byelection held in the former constituency of Meath in 1995 where turnout was 41 per cent. That election was won by Shane McEntee, whose death last December created the vacancy in the three-seat constituency.

While voting levels for this byelection were not expected to be high, the overnight falls of snow which left some roads in the country in a hazardous condition led to exceptionally low turnout in the first two to three hours of polling. By mid-afternoon, the weather had brightened but polling stations were still reporting turnouts of 15 per cent cent or lower.

The low turnout means parties will be relying on their core vote. Fine Gael’s Helen McEntee, daughter of the late Mr McEntee, and Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne are joint favourites with bookmakers. Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke is also expected to increase his party’s share of the vote significantly.