Election 2016: Turnout ‘uneven’ with many late undecideds

Polling stations closed at 10pm with opinion polls predicting a hung Dáil

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala voted in the general election at St. Anthonys National School Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Video: REUTERS

 

Political parties described the turnout in Friday’s general election as “uneven”, with many politicians claiming a significant number of people remained undecided up to the last moment.

Polling stations closed in 40 constituencies at 10pm. Some parts of Dublin recorded turnout levels in line with last year’s same-sex marriage referendum when 60 per cent of the electorate voted.

But turnout in many urban areas appeared to be significantly down on the last general election.

There was a national turnout of 70 per cent in the 2011 general election which saw Fianna Fail routed and the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government returned with a comfortable majority.

Sources in the main political parties were estimating on Friday evening that the turnout this year will be lower this year.

Parts of Mayo, such as Swinford and Ballina, reported 40 per cent turnout by 6 pm.

In Dublin, a turnout of 55 per cent was recorded at Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun by 5pm. At the same time, Synge Street school in Dublin’s south inner city had recorded turnout of 25 per cent, down 11 percentage points on 2011 for the same time period.

Bad weather in parts of the country created difficulty for voters getting to the polls. Parts of Waterford and Cork were reporting slow turnouts at 8pm. But voting seemed to be brisker in areas along the east coast, including Louth and parts of Dublin. P

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resident Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny cast their votes early in Dublin and Castlebar respectively.

In Mr Kenny’s constituency of Mayo, turnout early in the day ranged from 12 per cent at some polling stations to a remarkable 60 per cent in Louisburg where there is a campaign to get a 100 per cent turnout in memory of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Mr Kenny, along with his wife Fionnuala, chatted with the Returning Officer for Mayo, Fintan Murphy, and others at St Anthony’ National School on the outskirts of Castlebar. After voting Mr Kenny patted the ballot box as if to wish himself luck - local people say it is his familiar habit on polling day. Speaking afterwards, the Taoiseach said the choice facing the electorate was “a critical one”.

Casting his vote in Cork, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said a sizeable cohort of voters remained undecided even on election day, and their votes could prove crucial.

“I am not going to make any predictions but I am hopeful that we will get a good result. Its up to the people now to decide, but it was quite clear to us even yesterday on the campaign trail that there are quite a number of people who still have to make their mind up.

“In fact, it was quite striking how many people still hadn’t made their minds up. They were asking basic questions around policy terms. I think there’s been a lot of activity on the ground and I would like to think that would manifest itself in a good turnout.”

Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton said she was feeling “upbeat and optimistic” about her party’s prospects in the election. She cast her vote at St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys on the Navan Road in north Dublin.

“It’s great to live in a democracy where you have the freedom to exercise your vote. It is the 100th anniversary of 1916, and it is appropriate in this anniversary year that as many people as possible should come out and vote.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams voted in Ravensdale, Co Louth, close to the Border with Northern Ireland.

The latest opinion polls have suggested Fine Gael and Labour may fall short of a majority, meaning the election could result in a hung Dáil.

The counting of votes begins at 9 am on Saturday, with the first counts expected to be announced in the late afternoon.

Counting will continue late into Saturday night and Sunday morning, with most counts expected to be completed on Sunday.

Voters will elect 157 of the 158 members of the 32nd Dáil, with the outgoing Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett returned automatically.

The next Dáil, reduced in size by eight seats from the 31st Dáil, will meet on March 10th next. When the 31st Dáil was dissolved on February 3rd, Fine Gael had 67 TDs, the Labour Party had 33, Fianna Fáil 21, Sinn Féin 14, the Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit had four, Renua and the Social Democrats had three each and Independents and Others had 20. One seat was vacant due to the resignation of former Fine Gael deputy Brian Walsh earlier this year.