Turnout in the Dublin Bay South byelection is unlikely to top 40 per cent despite substantial and high-profile campaigns mounted by the leading parties, including a flurry of activity during polling day on Thursday involving hundreds of party volunteers.
Leading constituency figures from the political parties say the number of voters will be substantially below the 54 per cent who voted in the General Election in January 2020.
Most were of the opinion, as of Thursday evening, that it might be in the mid-30s in percentage terms. Turnouts in byelectons tend to be significantly lower than general elections.
However, there were reports that turnout was at near general election levels in Pearse Street and Ringsend, where Sinn Féin has been the leading party in recent elections. It suggests that Lynn Boylan may perform better than was suggested in The Irish Times constituency poll, which put her support at 13 per cent.
Officials from other parties said it was difficult to predict the pattern of voting because with so many people working from home during Covid-19, there was no teatime surge of people casting votes as they returned from work.
Both Fine Gael and Labour reported there was a strong turnout in the areas where both parties enjoy their strongest support. Their candidates, James Geoghegan and Ivana Bacik, are considered the front-runners. Sources from both parties were predicting that the outcome of the election will be very close.
“It is on a knife-edge,” said a senior strategist. “It’s going to boil down to transfers and could go either way.”
In the last 24 hours of the election, both Fine Gael and Labour mobilised hundreds of volunteers onto the streets of the constituency.
Some 120 Fine Gael Oireachtas members, councillors and volunteers handed out 30,000 leaflets across the constituency between 4am and 8am. The leaflets included endorsements for Mr Geoghegan from leading Fine Gael figures, including Dublin MEP Frances Fitzgerald, who said he was a person who was dedicated and committed to public service.
Similarly, Labour began an extensive leaflet drop from 6am with a personalised postcard from Ms Bacik describing her as a candidate with courage and tenacity.
Fine Gael party leader Leo Varadkar, and Ministers including director of elections Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe spent much of the day canvassing in the constituency.
Labour mobilised more than 100 party volunteers. Many spent the day at traffic junctions and bridges in the constituency holding posters for their candidate.
There was consensus in the constituency that Fianna Fáil's candidate Deirdre Conroy might struggle. Strategists with other parties said that Green Party candidate Claire Byrne had put in a solid campaign in the last week, had done well in the debates, and might exceed expectations.
Most parties kept highly visible campaigns in operation throughout the constituency into the evening and intended to continue until the polls closed at 10.30pm.