Saturday 17 February 2018

By-election turnout dismally low

Counting begins in the Meath East by-election at Donaghmore GAA club
Counting begins in the Meath East by-election at Donaghmore GAA club

Turnout in the Meath East by-election was dismally low with less than a third of the electorate casting their vote.

As polls closed at 9pm on Wednesday, turnout was estimated at around 30%.

Eleven candidates are in the running to take the seat once held by late junior minister Shane McEntee, who died just before Christmas.

Tallying up of the ballots will begin at 9am on Thursday morning in Ashbourne, with Meath East returning officer Mary O'Malley presiding. A result is expected at about midday.

Turnout was dismally low compared with the last by-election - held in October 2011 following the death of former finance minister Brian Lenihan - which saw 58% of the electorate cast their vote.

Turnout at around 4pm in the latest poll was 11.6%. Activity was very slow to start, with huge swathes of the constituency a commuter belt, but activity picked up later in the evening with a surge of workers rushing to their nearest ballot box to cast their vote.

The late Mr McEntee's daughter Helen is the Fine Gael party candidate to take up her father's mantle and she is one of the front-runners tipped to win.

Fianna Fail candidate Thomas Byrne is believed to be her main competition, with pundits describing the race as too close to call.

Speculators have said Ms McEntee may have the backing of her late father's supporters and strong farming network, but Mr Byrne has previous experience serving as a TD.

The ongoing cold snap and snow flurries throughout the day may well have kept would-be voters away from the stations.

Press Association

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