Election 2016: Primary school poll produces ‘shock result’

Mars Bar bribe swings St Patrick’s Boys’ National School vote leaving Ó Cuiv in cold

Shock result – a Fine Gael senator tops the poll and Labour hangs on to its seat in Galway West.

And Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív loses out to a rival armed with Mars Bars in exchange for votes.

That was the outcome of "GE 2016" in St Patrick's Boys' National School in Galway city on Friday when 220 pupils, teachers and staff ran their own unofficial plebiscite, hosted by sixth class.

The “campaign” began over a fortnight ago, when teacher Tom O’Neill issued an open invitation on Twitter to Galway West candidates to come in and speak.


Sixth-class pupils then volunteered to become election agents for each candidate, canvassing on their behalf throughout the school over the past fortnight.

Edric Opoku (12) was a very effective campaigner for Independent TD Noel Grealish, while Ben Powell (12) spread the message for Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony.

Roan Eldwood (12) explained that he was agent for Fianna Fáil candidate Mary Hoade, and Cian Lally (12) worked for Sinn Féin's Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.

“We got a lot of feedback,” Opoku said, and pupils began to take a keen interest in issues ranging from the impact of flooding to Galway’s traffic and transport difficulties.

Day off

One key issue for the pupils themselves was why their school couldn’t become a polling station and give them a day off on Friday.

Excitement was at fever pitch on Friday morning, with ballot boxes set up in the school hall, a template for voting papers provided by Social Democrat candidate Niall Ó Tuathail, and a count centre organised.

“We had just three spoiled votes among the 220,” the pupils, now experts on the intricacies of proportional representation, noted.

Turnout was about 98 per cent, allowing for a couple of absentees. The biggest challenge was dealing with the transfers in a crowded field.

The result was declared by returning officer O'Neill in the early afternoon. Fine Gael senator Hildegarde Naughton – coincidentally a former teacher in St Patrick's – topped the poll, while Grealish took the second seat.

Third went to Fianna Fáil councillor John Connolly, he of the Mars Bars, while Labour TD Derek Nolan filled the fourth and Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne secured the final place.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times