Islanders cast votes early in European and local elections
It could be the last time people in remote Irish communities are allowed to vote a day ahead of the rest of the country.
Residents on islands off the coasts of Donegal, Galway and Mayo are casting their votes in the European and local elections for what could be the last time they are able to do so a day ahead of the rest of the country.
More than 2,000 people are eligible to vote on the remote islands.
It is expected to be the last time early voting on the islands is allowed under changes within government.
Presiding officer Carmel McBride and garda Adrian McGettigan were dropped off by helicopter on the island of Inishbofin on Thursday morning, with Mr McGettigan delivering the ballot box to the polling station.
Ms McBride has been the presiding officer for around 30 years.
The rest of Ireland will vote in the European and local elections on Friday.
They will also cast their ballots in a referendum on Ireland’s divorce laws – with a Yes vote set to reduce the lengthy period separated couples have to wait before they can obtain a formal divorce.
Voters in Cork, Waterford and Limerick will also be able to participate in separate plebiscites on government proposals to create directly elected city mayoral positions with executive functions.
Counting in the local elections and divorce referendum will begin on Saturday morning.
The European election count for Ireland’s three constituencies – Dublin, South, and Midlands-North-West – will commence on Sunday morning at centres in Dublin, Cork and Castlebar, Co Mayo.
A Europe-wide embargo means the first results in that poll cannot be declared until 10pm that night. If previous elections are a guide, counting is likely to continue into Monday.
Counting in the mayoral plebiscites is likely to get under way in the three impacted cities on Monday.
The European and local government elections will be the first electoral test for Ireland’s main parties since the inconclusive general election of 2016.
The result delivered a hung parliament and precipitated months of negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, two parties with a century-old enmity dating back to Ireland’s Civil War.
A historic accord emerged that saw Fianna Fail agree to support a minority Fine Gael-led government through a confidence-and-supply deal for three years.
The parties renewed that arrangement late last year, extending what has been dubbed an era of “new politics” until early 2020.
While Friday’s elections focus on European and council issues, the results will no doubt be interpreted as a public judgment on Fine Gael’s performance in government and how effectively Fianna Fail has managed the delicate balancing act of holding an administration to account while at the same time propping it up.
Other smaller parties in the Oireachtas parliament, such as Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Labour, will hope to be the beneficiaries of any potential public disaffection with “new politics”.