Candidates in last pitch for votes

 

A record 566 candidates are making their final appeals to voters today ahead of tomorrow's election.

With the polls predicting a seismic shift in the political landscape, party leaders took to the campaign trail for the last time in this election ahead the traditional broadcasting blackout on coverage came into force at 2pm.

In Donegal this morning, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny made an impassioned plea to voters to turn their anger against the current administration into action when they vote.

He said the country was living with a national heartbreak as it reeled from the “national confidence trick” pulled on it by the Government and those it ceded power to, namely the developers and banks.

Mr Kenny urged voters to show their confidence in the future of the country by voting. "If this election is to take the political pulse of our nation, I want every beat and every vote to show a nation that looks with hope, generosity and courage to the future, and not with regret or hurt and bitterness of the past."

In Cork, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin issued an appeal to voters thinking of supporting independents to instead support Fianna Fáil to ensure that there is a broad agreement in the Dáil on the type of policies being pursued to ensure economic recovery. "I would ask people to reflect on it - I don't want to dictate to people but in my view, particularly people who voted Fianna Fáil in the past, I would ask them to reflect on that and to give their vote to the Fianna Fail candidate,” he said.

"I say that on the basis I think a Fianna Fáil will be a vital force in the next parliament and can make a vital contribution to national policy and implementing the kinds of ideas that will help Ireland recover - we would argue independents can't do that as effectively as a party."

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore again urged the electorate not to grant a monopoly of power to any one party. “For the past few years, many people have watched in anger and frustration at the damage that has been done to our country, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Tomorrow, power is returned to the Irish people," he said.

Sinn Féin's Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the issue of transfers would be “crucial” in tomorrow’s vote and called on voters who would not normally support his party to “ensure a strong responsible republican voice" in the next Dáil.

Green Party leader John Gormley this morning conceded Fine Gael and Labour were “home and dry” but said people could make their vote count tomorrow by voting for his party. He said that the Greens were fighting for the last seat in five Dublin constituencies and in Louth, Carlow-Kilkenny, Galway West and Cork South Central.

“If voters decide that we are in opposition we will constructively oppose the government – but also back them when they are doing the right thing for Irish people,” Mr Gormley said.

United Left Alliance candidates Joe Higgins MEP and Cllr Richard Boyd Barrett canvassed voters on Dublin's Grafton Street this morning. They have predicted the alliance could take as many as eight seats in the next Dáil.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox has been helping Fine Gael prepare for its first 100 days in office.

“I was invited to assist in the preparation of Fine Gael’s first-100-day strategy and was pleased to do so,” Mr Cox said last night. “This strategy exhibits an appetite, determination and capacity for change which awaits a mandate from the electorate to realise its potential. It has been prepared at the express request of Enda Kenny to ensure that, in the event of receiving the necessary endorsement from the electorate, he and his team will hit the ground running.”

There was speculation in Fine Gael last night that if Mr Kenny became taoiseach he would invite Mr Cox, a former Progressive Democrats TD and Independent MEP, to advise him on the attempt to renegotiate the EU-IMF bailout.

Offshore voting continues today on the three Aran islands and Inishbofin in the Galway West constituency. Some 466 voters on seven islands in Cork South West vote tomorrow. The total island electorate is 2,575.