Tuesday 28 March 2017

Islanders see red over their poll position in voting race

Brian McDonald

SEAMUS 'Jamesie' O Flatharta is hoping he doesn't see many more polling days like it.

The Aran islander, who has led the way in trying to have the offshore islands vote on the same day as the rest of the country, is optimistic his campaign will eventually pay off.

More than 2,500 islanders off the west and south coasts were eligible to go to the polls over the past 48 hours. Logistics and uncertainty over the weather decreed they got a head start on everyone else.

But Jamesie was having none of it.

"I'm a second-class citizen. It's as simple as that," he declared yesterday, on Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the Galway coast.

"I've been on about this for years and it's a disgrace. Middle-aged men in Dublin are telling me I should vote on a different day to almost everyone else in the country.

"Anything could happen in the time between me voting and the rest of the country and I might want to change my mind. It's all right for people on the mainland.

"It is my wish that before I'm laid to rest, I will see it change," he said before heading in to Scoil an Cheathrar Alainn to cast his ballot.

Officially, 629 voters are registered at the three polling stations on Inis Mor. But due to emigration, study and work on the mainland, the actual number of people who could vote yesterday was considerably less.

Not that too many of the candidates in Galway West had taken the trouble to canvass the Aran islanders. Locals reported that only Eamon O Cuiv (FF) and Sinn Fein's Trevor O Clochartaigh had come knocking on their doors.

One of the first to arrive at the Scoil Ronain polling station was a middle-aged man who had been living on Inis Mor for a number of years. He waited for his ballot paper to be stamped and, for his own reasons, tore it in half, dropped it into the ballot box and walked out.

Franchise

But 84-year-old John Mulkerin was too mindful of his franchise to even contemplate following suit.

Grandad of the Mulkerin brothers, who shot to fame a couple of years ago when they won the 'All Ireland Talent Show' on RTE, John didn't have a problem with voting ahead of the rest of the country either.

"I'm voting here for the last 50 years," he said.

And his preference? John wasn't saying, but he dropped a serious hint.

"We're fighting all our lives for the Irish language and they want to put in that man who wants to change it all."

Sorry about that, Enda.

Irish Independent

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