Turnout high despite weather, weekend events

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A brisk turnout has been reported in many areas in the election to the Dublin parliament since voting began at 7am this morning.

The unprecedented Saturday choice of polling day, a period of stormy weather and some high-profile sports events have all affected usual voting day patterns and have made a final turnout figure difficult to predict.

Severe wind warnings encouraged voters to turn out in the morning, reaching 34 per cent in some areas by noon and up over 60% in some rural areas by 5pm. In comparison, turnout in Dublin was lower, at 20% or below by midday and still as low as 30% in some areas by 5pm.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald cast her ballot at St Joseph’s School on the Navan Road in Cabra at around midday. She said: “People have told us throughout this campaign that they want change, that they want a change in our presentation and they want a change in government, so I am saying to people please come out today and vote for a change.

“Bring your family, your neighbours and friends and come down and use your vote - today is your day.”

Aontú leader Peadar Toibin voted in Navan, County Meath at around 11am, ahead of the funeral of a fellow founder of the party, Francie Brolly, in Dungiven, County Derry. Mr Brolly died suddenly earlier this week ahead of the party’s first general election in the 26 Counties.

A woman dressed as a celery stick and another protestor were ejected from a polling station in Kilgarvan, County Kerry early this morning as they attempted to accompany TDs into vote in an anti-meat protest. Garda police were on hand but there was no trouble.

In Roscommon, 103-year-old Michael Coyne arrived at the polling station in Boyle, to have tea and cake provided for him. Born on January 14, 1917 he was around in 1918, the last time a general election was held in Ireland on a Saturday, an election when the first Sinn Fein movement famously struck a blow for freedom from British rule.

With Sinn Fein topping polls for the first time in its history this week for the first time, and the governing Fine Gael party looking set to come in third, the outcome will be closely watched in Ireland and across Europe.

An exit poll due to be released after voting concludes at 10pm this evening will be the first indicator of the future make-up of the next government in Dublin and will be published here as it becomes available.

A party or coalition must win 80 seats to form a government.

At the dissolution of the last Dáil, Fine Gael had 48 seats, including one TD who had resigned; Fianna Fáil had 46, including the speaker; Sinn Féin had 22; Labour, seven; Solidarity-People Before Profit, six; Green Party, three; Social Democrats, two; Independents4Change, one; Aontú, one; and Independents and others, 22.

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