Polling closes in European, local and byelections
Voting in today's local and European Parliament elections, as well as two byelections in Dublin, has concluded as polling stations throughout Ireland closed their doors at 10pm.
Overall turnout could exceed the 59 per cent level of the 2004 elections, if the brisk voting patterns reported until teatime continued for the final hours.
Preliminary figures obtained by the main political parties – as well as feedback from TDs in some 25 Dail constituencies – indicated a strong turnout with voting levels holding up strongly in urban areas and in the commuter belts around Dublin.
Fine Gael director of local elections Phil Hogan suggested turnout could be near “general election levels”. While the figures may not reach the 67 per cent turnout of the 2007 general election, it may exceed it in some areas.
More than three million people were entitled to vote in the European elections and for the country’s 34 county and city councils. Some people will also be able to vote in the Dublin South and Dublin Central byelections and in 75 borough and town council elections.
Polling stations opened at 7am.
Among the first to the ballot box was President McAleese, who cast her vote with her husband Martin at St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park.
The Taoiseach voted in Mucklagh National School near his home in Offaly, while Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny cast his ballot in Castlebar in Mayo.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore voted in Shankill in his Dún Laoghaire constituency, while John Gormley of the Green Party was in Ringsend in Dublin South East.
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhín Ó Caoláin voted at St Patrick’s Hall in Monaghan Town.
In Dublin by 9pm, average turnout was 39.9 per cent, with the highest turnout in Cabra/Glasnevin at 53.5 per cent. Turnout in the north inner city was low at just 25 per cent by 9pm. However Scoil Caomhin in Marlborough Street had recorded a turnout of 30 per cent by 8pm.
In the Fingal County Council area, the polling centre at Balbriggan national school recorded a turnout of 40 per cent by 8pm.
At St Mary’s Girl’s National School in Lucan, south Dublin, part of the South Dublin County Council electoral area, almost 48 per cent of voters had cast their ballot by 8pm.
And in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council area, St Brigid’s School, Cornelscourt, saw a turnout of over 43 per cent by late evening.
Voting in Cork city and county was steady throughout the day with some polling stations in the county hitting a 50 per cent turnout by 7pm. In Beaumont in the largely middle class South East ward of Cork City, polling reached 51pc by 7pm with final turnout expected to creep over 60 per cent.
In Turners Cross in the more working class South Central Ward of Cork City Council, turnout went from 27 per cent by 5pm to 31 per cent by 6pm and by 7pm, it had reached 33 per cent.
In Blackpool in the North Central ward, turnout was running at 45 per cent by 7pm while in Mayfield in the North East ward at around 7pm, it varied from 26 per cent to 51 per cent depending on the boxes. Clonakilty in west Cork was reporting a high turnout of about 50 per cent by 7pm with large numbers of immigrant voters turning out to vote. In Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula, the turnout varied from 45 per cent to 55 per cent by 7pm.
The Roundwood polling station in Co Wicklow saw 42 per cent of registered voters casting their vote by late evening, while in Wexford town the Christian Brothers school polling station recorded a turnout of 44 per cent.
Kells in Co Meath had an estimated turnout of 35 per cent by 6pm and parts of Louth had a similar showing at polling stations. Commuter towns of Dundalk and Drogheda were running at about 17 per cent by 5pm.
At the busiest poll centres in Limerick, turnout was reported to be as high as 31 per cent earlier in the day.
Co Mayo registrar Fintan Murphy said area inspectors had visited a sample of the 247 polling stations were surprised at voter levels.
“The main urban areas of Ballina, Castlebar and Westport were recording 27-34 per cent by 4.30pm,” he said.
“We would consider that high - probably as high as the last general election at the same stage,” he added.
In the Taoiseach’s polling station, at Mucklagh national school, the turnout was at 48 per cent at 8pm. In the Teagasc polling centre in Longford town, turnout was at over 54 per cent.
Those eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections and the local elections received two ballot papers - apart from in areas where there was a third ballot for a town or borough council.
Voters in the two byelections also had three ballot papers.
All political activity was prohibited in the vicinity of polling stations today from half an hour before they open until half an hour after they close. The prohibition applies to canvassing in any form, or displaying or distributing posters, notices or cards within 50 metres of the entrance to polling stations.
Ballot boxes will be opened at 9am tomorrow morning and after verification that the number of ballot papers from each box is correct they will be sorted into separate bundles for the European and local election counts. Counting in the local elections will then begin.
The European election count will not start until 9pm on Sunday, when polling stations across the EU have closed. Counting in the two byelections, for which separate ballot boxes will be used, will also begin tomorrow and declarations are expected by late evening in both constituencies.
While there will be tallies from the European elections tomorrow, the full results from the four European constituencies are not expected until Monday evening.
In statements last night, Taoiseach Brian Cowen defended his Government’s record while Fine Gael forecast a revolution in Irish politics and Labour appealed to people to shake up the political system.