Friday 16 November 2018

Defence Forces helicopter glitch delays island poll

Sgt Val Murray assists Carmel McBride, presiding officer for Inishbofin
Sgt Val Murray assists Carmel McBride, presiding officer for Inishbofin
Carmel McBride, presiding officer for Inishbofin, checks her watch before polls closed yesterday

Greg Harkin

A DECISION to allow islanders to vote closer to the mainland polling day almost backfired when a Defence Forces helicopter was grounded.

Residents of 12 islands off the Galway, Mayo and Donegal coasts all went to the polls yesterday, just 24 hours before the mainland vote. In the past, the vote has been two or three days before.

However, an Army Augusta Westland 139 helicopter was forced to return to its Baldonnell base yesterday morning due to a technical fault just a few miles from the Donegal islands.

A second helicopter, with ballot boxes on board, touched down on Inishbofin and Tory islands just after lunch, two hours after polling was due to begin. Polling was extended for two hours as a result.

"There was a technical fault and the crew returned to base as a precaution," a Defence Forces spokesman said.

One of the first to vote on Tory was the island's self-declared king – Patsy Dan Rodgers. "It was good to get voting closer to the mainland in terms of time because it gave us more time to think about our choices," he told the Irish Independent.

"In the past there would have been TV debates still going on and of course in the presidential election that had a significant impact afterwards."

A total of 2,131 people were registered to vote on 12 islands with turn-out estimated to be low.

In Donegal, 753 people were entitled to vote, 514 of them on Arranmore, where ballot boxes were delivered by ferry at dawn.

Irish Independent

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