Saturday 24 August 2019

By-election will be best source of drama once the boxes are opened

Fine Gael's David Fitzgerald has fought a rearguard action
Fine Gael's David Fitzgerald has fought a rearguard action
John Downing

John Downing

There's a feast of drama on radio and television tomorrow from early morning. Keep this armchair guide handy to enhance your enjoyment.

At 9am, boxes are opened and papers sorted at 28 count centres across the country.

This will take time due to two referendum ballot papers and in Carlow-Kilkenny there are by-election ballot papers. Tallies will proceed in most of these count centres with the main parties collaborating on getting an idea of how things are going.

First reasonable indications might be available as early as 10am. Everything depends on how close the outcome is.

The big turnout reported last night - and the strong presence of young voters - suggests that the big picture verdict could be with us very early indeed. I expect that interest later may ultimately focus on the margin of victory for the Yes side.

In June 2008, when voters rejected the EU Treaty of Lisbon, a very strong indication was known within an hour of the boxes being opened. In the end of the count there was just a margin of 7pc. In November 1995, when just over 9,000 votes decided the divorce referendum, no result could be predicted right until the very end. In fact a recount had to be called. The 'Yes' was initially ahead by 7,520 votes and that margin was fractionally extended to 9,114 after recounting.

Watch for "bellwether" predictions from seasoned politicians, who keep an eagle eye on the emptying of particular boxes which carry a voter-mix which mirrors the national trend.

Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys used such a series of boxes from his own bailiwick to make an uncanny and very early call in October 2013 on the outcome of the referendum on abolishing Seanad Éireann.

At 9.15am, Humphreys correctly said Seanad Éireann would live on.

In the presidential election in October 2011, having looked at these three boxes being sorted at the RDS, Humphreys correctly said at 9.10am that Michael D Higgins would be Uachtarán na hÉireann.

Results will be relayed to the central point at Dublin Castle. Referendum returning officer Riona Ni Flanghaile will hope to make an announcement round about 4pm - all going well.

Then the focus will switch to picking a Dáil replacement for EU Commissioner Phil Hogan in Carlow-Kilkenny, which is tipped as offering an intriguing three-way battle. Former Fianna Fáil TD Bobby Aylward entered the fray as favourite.

Fine Gael's David Fitzgerald has fought a rearguard action. Renua Ireland's Patrick McKee has cut a dash in this first election test for the new party, and could be the dark horse of this race.

Sinn Féin's Kathleen Funchion is tipped to poll well and her transfers could influence the final outcome.

Early tallies here will come first from Carlow where one third of the vote is. The by-election count could go late into the evening at The Hub, on the Dublin road outside Kilkenny city.

Party leaders will be on stand-by to travel for the result declaration - provided the result looks good. Watch for Micheál Martin.

Irish Independent

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