Polls close with high turnout reported in many areas
Polling stations have closed in the election that is set to change the face of Irish politics.
Initial reports suggest that voter turnout appears to have surpassed that of the 2007 election. Some polling stations were reporting a turnout of over 70 per cent with voting described as brisk in most
regions of the country all day.
The turnout in the 2007 election was 67 per cent, which itself was the highest since 1992.
More than three million people were entitled to vote in 43 constituencies being contested by a record 566 candidates.
The counting of votes will begin at 9am tomorrow, with the first counts expected in the late afternoon.
Voters will elect 165 of the 166 TDs to the 31st Dáil, with the Ceann Comhairle, Séamus Kirk, being automatically returned.
When the 30th Dáil was dissolved on February 1st Fianna Fáil had 73 TDs, Fine Gael had 51, Labour 20, the Green Party six, Sinn Féin five, and others eight.
President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr Martin McAleese, who live in the Dublin Central constituency, cast their votes at St Mary's Hospital in the Phoenix Park this morning. Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his wife Mary voted at Scoil Cholmain Naofa at Mucklagh, Co Offaly.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny voted at St Patrick’s National School in Chapel Street in Castlebar, Co Mayo with his wife Fionnuala and daughter Aoibhinn, a first-time voter. “I hope that as many people as possible, all over the country, go and cast their vote today,” he said.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his wife Mary cast their ballots at St Joseph's Boys National School in Ballinlough in his Cork South Central constituency, “Every vote counts and I would urge people to come out and vote,” he said.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore voted at Scoil Mhuire in Rathsallagh, Shankill in his Dún Laoghaire constituency with his daughter Gráinne. Green Party leader John Gormley voted with his wife Penny Stuart at St Patrick’s
School in Ringsend, Dublin and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams cast his vote at Doolargy National School in Co Louth.
Yesterday, Mr Kenny made a final appeal to voters, urging them 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 to whom it had ceded power, the developers and banks.
“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,” he said.
Mr Martin issued an appeal to his party’s traditional supporters not to desert the party for Independents. He pledged that Fianna Fáil would be a vital force in the next Dáil where it could make a vital contribution to national policy by implementing the kinds of ideas that would help Ireland recover.
Mr Gilmore again urged the electorate not to grant a monopoly of power to any one party saying that for the difficult tasks ahead the country needed a government that reflected the broad range of opinion in the country. “We need a fair and balanced government, that brings people together. Labour is the party best placed to bring people together to take on our problems, and build a better and fairer Ireland.”
Sinn Féin’s Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the issue of transfers would be “crucial” and he called on voters who would not normally support his party to “ensure a strong responsible republican voice” in the next Dáil.
Mr Gormley claimed that Fine Gael and Labour were “home and dry” but said people could make their vote count by voting for his party. He said the Greens were fighting for the last seat in five Dublin constituencies and in Louth, Carlow-Kilkenny, Galway West and Cork South Central.
United Left Alliance candidates Joe Higgins MEP and Cllr Richard Boyd Barrett canvassed voters on Dublin’s Grafton Street and predicted the alliance could take as many as eight seats in the next Dáil.
There were reports last night that many voters had not received polling cards but people are entitled to vote as long as their name is on the register of electors, regardless of whether or not they have received the card.
The ballot boxes will now be brought to the 43 count centres. They will be opened at 9am tomorrow. The returning officers will verify that all paperwork is correct before counting begins.