independent

Sunday 16 December 2018

County follows the national trend in voting for President

The Presidential election and referendum on blasphemy

Sinn Féin councillor Johnny Mythen tots up the tally
Sinn Féin councillor Johnny Mythen tots up the tally

Anna Hayes

From an early stage on Saturday morning, it seemed clear that County Wexford was not going to stray too far from the national trend when it came to voting in the Presidential Election.

Turnout to the polling stations on Friday was low across the board, with the usual evening rush not happening to the same extent as it had in previous referenda or elections. There were reports, in some constituencies, of people not realising that there was a referendum (on blasphemy) taking place that day.

In Murrintown Community Centre, the voting coincided with the annual Opera Festival art exhibition and some voters were perplexed by the number of cars parked outside, wondering if their polling station was going to buck what was well reported as a national trend by that stage of the day!

The final turnout in Wexford was 44.05%, with 55.47% of those votes going to the incumbent Michael D Higgins, who enjoyed particular dominance in the Wexford town area.

As was the case across the country, Dragon's Den judge and businessman Peter Casey polled strongly taking 24.26% of the vote. He polled very well in Enniscorthy, New Ross and many other rural areas, with his controversial comments in the run-up to the election about the Travelling community and Ireland's welfare system seemingly helping rather than hindering his bid.

The runner-up in the 2011 campaign, Sean Gallagher, another Dragon's Den judge, was next with 7.18% of the vote. Gallagher had been endorsed by Wexford County Council back in September but his campaign failed to attract the backing he had had in the 2011 campaign until The Front Line debate that derailed his bid.

Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ni Riada took 6.03% of the vote, Pieta House founder Joan Freeman received 4.66% and the third Dragon of the pack, Gavin Duffy brought up the rear with a vote of 2.38%. It was, in particular, a bad result for Sinn Féin who would have hoped that their party opinion polls might have resulted in a higher polling figure for their candidate but those votes went elsewhere.

There were, as always, some spoiled votes - 581 in total. In a St Senan's box from Enniscorthy, two papers brandished a big X across the six candidates with 'Vote Gemma O'Doherty' written underneath. Another paper featured no mark in any of the candidate boxes but the words 'Christ Is King' was scribbled across the page instead.

While everything is set to stay the same in the Áras, there was one notable geographical change in Wexford this year - the use of Coláiste Bríde as a count centre and it comfortably housed the proceedings.

It is the first time, for many years, that such an event hasn't taken place in St Joseph's Community Centre in Wexford which was unavailable.

Members of political parties filtered through the count centre at the secondary school throughout the morning but there was a general sense of apathy in the room as the exit poll the night before had made clear the inevitable result.

Tallymen from political parties were watching for trends in their party votes rather than the, usually, all important numbers.

With local elections the next scheduled event, many will be analysing the results of the voting in the various areas as they set out their stall for the 2019 election.

New Ross Standard

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