Voting on Saturday may be looked at again, says Kenny


POLLING DAY:Saturday voting may need to be reconsidered following lower than expected turnouts in the poll, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of Ministers have indicated.

More than 3.1 million people were eligible to vote, but the campaign failed to capture the public imagination, with a turnout of 33.5 per cent.

Saturday voting has only been tried once before in a referendum. The first time it was used was in the second vote on the Nice treaty in 2002.

Mr Kenny said the Government would now examine whether there should be changes to future referendums and whether they should go back to holding them on weekdays.

“I can’t force people to vote,” he said in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, where he yesterday attended a Remembrance Day ceremony. The Government would now consider issues such as whether to hold referendums on weekdays or weekends, whether to leave polling stations open longer and whether people could vote at a younger age.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also said Saturday voting might be something that needed to be looked at in light of the low turnout. “It may well be that people’s voting pattern works better with their working pattern than it does with the routine families have on a Saturday.”

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said of Saturday voting yesterday: “We thought it would be a more family-friendly day, but in fact we will have to examine that.”

Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan warned, however, against viewing the low turnout as a judgement on Saturday voting. “I do think we need to give it another go. I do think as well if it was a general election you would have had a lot more political activity and it might have been a fairer reflection to people’s response to Saturday voting, so I don’t think we should judge the Saturday vote on this particular turnout, but it is disappointing.”

Youth Work Ireland defended the idea of Saturday voting, saying it was too early to dismiss the idea.

The organisation, whose members work with over 100,000 young people around the country, said Saturday voting could be a huge step towards addressing poor turnout rates for young people in the Irish voting system.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan made the order for polling on the children’s rights referendum for Saturday, November 10th.

Polling took place between 9am and 10pm, a reduction in the traditional number of hours which he said would generate savings of over €600,000.

Saturday voting also meant school closures were avoided.