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TODAY IS THE day. After weeks of campaigning and debates, members of the public have finally had the chance to vote in General Election 2020.

Polling stations around the country will close at 10pm, with an RTÉ exit poll due shortly after that – giving an indication of what the result will be.

Recent opinion polls have resulted in much speculation about the outcome of today’s vote and who will form the next government.

We’ll keep you updated with all the latest news as soon as we get it.

Good morning, it’s Órla Ryan here. Thanks for joining us as we kick off our election liveblog!

We’ll be posting all the latest news here, as well as voting information and some of our coverage throughout the campaign.

First up, here’s everything you need to know before casting your vote.

voting

According to our reader polls in recent days, the vast majority of people who took part plan to vote today – 85.5%.

poll

In previous elections, most readers have not voted all the way down the ballot paper – 57.5%.

ballot paper

There is some debate about whether it’s better to include a preference beside every candidate on a ballot paper, obviously giving the lowest number to your least favourite candidate, or not giving any preference to a person you don’t want elected.

Here’s what two experts with different views - Adrian Kavanagh and Gary Murphy – have to say about the topic

If you fancy listening to a podcast (or several) today, we’ve got you covered.

During the week, TheJournal.ie recorded its first live episode of The Explainer where panellists discussed how Ireland gets the politicians it has.

Host Sinéad O’Carroll was joined by journalist and broadcaster Lise Hand; Gary Murphy, associate professor of politics at DCU; Maynooth University’s election guru Adrian Kavanagh; and TU Dublin professor and pollster Kevin Cunningham.


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

If you want to hear even more, our political correspondent Christina Finn interviewed the leaders of the main parties in The Candidate series.

Many people will have already made their mind up about who they will be voting for today (or may have already voted) but if you’re still undecided about which candidates to back, or which preferences to give, we’re here to help.

My colleague Orla Dwyer has spent the last few weeks compiling our Candidate Database – it has information on each of the 500-plus candidates running around the country.

data

Each candidate has been asked the following three questions:

  • Why should someone vote for your?
  • What is your number one priority for your constituency?
  • What one thing would you like to do in your first 100 days of the new Dáil if you are elected?

vote 962 File photo Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

If you fancy voting on voting – bear with us, we’re excited it’s election day – you can let us know who you plan to give your number one vote to.

Things got very heated at various points in the election campaign, but there was one lighter moment during a debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time earlier this week.

There has been no love lost between Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar over the course of the campaign, but the latter helped the former out when he dropped some notes.

Confidence and supply in action (we kid).

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was reminiscent of this iconic moment from 2016:

general-election-ireland-2020 Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald pictured during the Prime Time debate. Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

The Prime Time debate generated much discussion before, during and afterwards.

Initially it was going to be a two-way debate between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, as the leaders of the two biggest political parties in the country.

However, after a surge in popularity for Sinn Féin in opinion polls, Mary Lou McDonald was added to the mix.

Here are the key points from Tuesday night’s debate.

general-election-ireland-2020 President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina leaving the polling station at St Mary's Hospital in Phoenix Park after casting their votes in the general election. Source: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina have cast their votes at St Mary’s Hospital in Phoenix Park in Dublin.

As always during a vote, #dogsatpollingstations is an important hashtag that people should keep refreshing throughout the day.

met Source: Met.ie

A number of weather warnings are in place, or will be later today, as Storm Ciara approaches Ireland.

A Status Yellow wind warning for the entire country began at 9am and will be in place until 11.59pm tomorrow.

A Status Orange wind warning for Donegal and Mayo will be in place from midday until 4pm today. 

A Status Orange wind warning for Galway will be in place from 1pm until 6pm today. 

A Status Yellow rainfall warning for the country will kick in at midday today and remain in place until 3pm tomorrow.

Active Retirement Ireland has encouraged the public to help their older neighbours get to their local polling station if adverse weather conditions prevent them travelling alone.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his family have voted at St Anthony’s Boys National School in Ballinlough, Cork.

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Concerns have been raised that people living with sight loss in Ireland will decide not to vote because information about the availability of special voting templates was only made available yesterday morning.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland has criticised the government for poor communication in relation to voting facilities.

There are 55,000 people in Ireland living with sight loss and this is the first general election where tactile ballot template system is to be used to facilitate voters with a visual impairment.

However, some errors have occurred in relation to an audio aid provided for people who are visually impaired. 

Bríd Smith, the People Before Profit candidate in Dublin South Central, was left off the audio list

Robbie Sinnott won a case in the High Court against the State in 2017 when he sought to vindicate his right to vote without assistance.

Since then he has been working with the Department of Housing working group representing his organisation Voices of Vision Impairment.

He explained to TheJournal.ie that digital lists are particularly important because they allow the voter to go through the names in their own time using a programme that reads them out loud and to go back and forth on the list.

The freephone call, according to Sinnott, can take several minutes and the recording only plays once. If the voter wants to hear the names again, they have to call again.

“The person has to cast a vote with phone in one hand and pencil in other, locating corresponding numbers and boxes at the same time,” he explained.

“You’d need a third hand to do it and you also have to remember all the names as you go down. You’re still thinking about number four when they’re reading number eight out.”

Sinnott has also been pushing for the use of an easel to secure the stencil to the ballot paper and avoid issues caused by the surfaces in the booths being too short for the ballot paper.

Our reporter Cónal Thomas has cast his vote in the Dublin Central constituency, he said turnout has been high at the polling station in Phibsborough.

20200208_105505 Source: Cónal Thomas

It’s also been fairly busy in Harold’s Cross, in Dublin Bay South, according to reporter Rónán Duffy. He said people had to queue for the supplementary register line, indicating there are a lot of voters on it.

You might recall – as the election was called for a date before 15 February, when Ireland’s register is officially updated with new voters – many people who registered in recent months had apply to be on the supplementary register to ensure they could vote today.

IMG-20200208-WA0005 Rónán's dog Zizou helped him vote. Source: Rónán Duffy

Turnout has been lower so far in Ballyfermot (Dublin South Central) and in Stoneybatter (Dublin Central), according to our colleagues Sean Murray and Dominic McGrath.

How has turnout been where you are? Let us know in the comments.

A Carmelite monastery near the Knock Shrine in Co Mayo hosts an order of nuns, some of whom attended the polling station at Knock National School this morning.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan has also cast his vote, in the Muslim National School in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

download (1)

General election campaigns are a time when a lot of big claims get bandied about by politicians.

Sometimes they’re true. Sometimes they have shades of truth to them. And sometimes they’re so far from the truth that it’s just a blur in the distance.

TheJournal.ie‘s FactCheck, the only Irish outlet affiliated to the International Fact-Checking Network, has been keeping an eye on the election campaign over the past four weeks to keep readers informed about the truth behind the claims and holding politicians to account for the things that they say.

At a time when misinformation and false news have become part of the media landscape, especially on social media platforms, factchecking plays a key role in debunking false and misleading information in Irish society.

We also ran a campaign on Facebook giving people tips on how to look out for false news and helping people to be more media literate.

Here’s a look at all of our factchecks over the course of this campaign, and how we ranked the claims.

In non-election news, the official opening ceremony of Galway 2020 has been cancelled as a result of the weather warnings in place for Storm Ciara.

The ceremony was due to take place at 5pm today, with crowds of up to 50,000 people expected.

However, a Status Orange wind warning and Status Yellow rain warning have resulted in the event being cancelled.

“We have been in constant contact with the relevant authorities since the weather warnings were put in place earlier this week and, in the interests of the safety of the public the weather warnings currently in place mean that it has been deemed unsafe to go ahead,” the organisers said in a statement.

“We are saddened for the community cast, our volunteers and the whole team who have worked so hard during the last weeks and months.”

map The wind warning is in place for the entire country. Source: Met Éireann

A Status Orange wind warning has been put in place for the entire country between the hours of 5am and midday tomorrow. 

This follows on from other weather warnings issued by Met Éireann:

  • Status Orange wind warning for Donegal and Mayo – midday to 4pm today
  • Status Orange wind warning for Galway – 1pm until 6pm today
  • Status Yellow rainfall warning for the entire country – midday today until 3pm tomorrow

Do you know what time it is? Time for another #dogsatpollingstations post.

20200208_120327 A democracy-loving dog at St Columba's National School in Glasnevin, Dublin Central. Source: Cónal Thomas

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has cast her vote at the polling station at St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Navan Road in Cabra, Dublin.

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

general-election-ireland-2020 Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, with local councillor Seamas McGrattan, arrives to cast her vote in Cabra. Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Headline of the day so far goes to

celery

For a little more context: A woman dressed as celery was ejected from a polling station in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, early this morning as she attempted to accompany the TD Danny Healy-Rae into vote in his home village.

The woman had been waiting outside the primary school in the village before the station opened at 7am.

Celery (1) Source: Peta

Peta, an animal rights organisation, later confirmed it was behind the demonstration.

“The meat industry kills animals while destroying our planet,” Peta Director Elisa Allen said in a statement.

“As we face historic droughts, floods, and wildfires around the world, Peta is calling on politicians and the public to stop ignoring animal agriculture’s connection to catastrophic climate change and go vegan before it’s too late,” Allen added. 

For those of you concerned by the below tweet, we have confirmed that Bosco is in fact still alive and well.

However, you should still go out and vote if you can.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has cast his vote at his local polling station in Castleknock in Dublin.

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Damien Storan/PA Wire

Varadkar brought a box of Roses sweets to give to count staff at the centre and thanked supporters for their work in the campaign, according to PA.

3662 Leo Varadkar Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Although we won’t have any conclusive turnout estimates for a while, local news outlets in the west have been tallying voting trends for a few constituencies this morning. 

Mid West Radio has reported a turnout of up to 17% in some parts of Mayo as of 11.30am.

Turnout is as high as 23% in one polling centre in Galway West as of midday, according to the Connacht Tribune

In Galway East, it stands between 14% and 19%, the paper reports. 

There’s nothing inherently glamorous about casting a vote, but there have been some interesting shots of non-politicians heading to the polls. 

embedded250147823 Source: PA images

Here we see Garda Tom McBride carrying an election box from Gola Island’s harbour off the coast of Donegal yesterday.  

Voters living on islands off Ireland’s coast cast their ballots a day in advance partly to account for weather conditions, much needed this weekend in advance of Storm Ciara. 

embedded250159239 Source: PA Images

A group of nuns were out bright and early today in Knock National School in Co Mayo. 

embedded250161105 Source: PA Images

We have already harked on about #dogsatpollingstations, but a few more additions won’t do any harm. 

ireland-elections Source: AP/PA Images

Labour candidate Kevin Humphreys has tweeted about an incident sure to have livened things up at a polling station in Rathgar. 

A man’s wedding ring allegedly fell off his finger into the ballot box, only to be retrieved by a nifty surgeon using a car aeriel. Truly this election’s hero. 

Here’s another turnout update from various locations across the country:

Was your polling station busy? Let us know in the comments.

The Labour Party got creative when encouraging people to vote today:

As you’re probably aware, it’s not common in Ireland for a general election to be held on a Saturday.

Today’s vote is the first Saturday election since 1918.

As my colleague Dominic McGrath wrote last month: The 1918 election was a crucial moment in Irish history and saw over 70 representatives reject Westminster and set up a parliament in Dublin.

Elected representatives, such as Countess Markievicz, Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, were among those Sinn Féin MPs to set up the first Dáil after the vote on Saturday 14 December 1918. 

The election signalled an enormous leap for the party, almost wiping out the Irish Parliamentary Party which had been the dominant voice in Irish politics for decades. 

There has been a high turnout in Santry and Glasnevin North so far today:

A lot of votes have been cast in Limerick city too, but there is apparently a slight lull at the moment – something being put down to the Ireland v Wales Six Nations match:

People really need to be more careful when casting their votes…

People Before Profit has suspended general election candidate Joe Loughnane from the party with immediate effect.

Loughnane is one of two Solidarity-PBP candidates running in Galway West. He previously contested the May 2019 local elections, losing out on a seat.

Earlier today, he issued an apology on Twitter after another Twitter user accused him of smashing her phone “for not giving him my password”.

Loughnane said the incident had happened last year. He apologised to the woman on Twitter for what he described as “extremely bad behaviour”.

PBP has said it is aware of “a situation regarding our Galway candidate” and announced his suspension from the party.

“Such behaviour is completely unacceptable in our organisation and will result in severe sanction. The member in question has been suspended with immediate effect,” the party’s statement noted.

keelin-shanley Source: Steve Langan/RTÉ

In terribly sad news, RTÉ has announced that broadcaster and journalist Keelin Shanley has died at the age of 51.

She passed away this afternoon at home in Dublin following an illness. She is mourned by her husband Conor Ferguson and son and daughter, Ben and Lucy.

Shanley has been a stalwart of RTÉ news coverage since she joined the broadcaster, with stints on Prime Time and Morning Ireland.

She also presented her own television show Morning Edition for two years before returning to radio, and eventually taking over as co-anchor on the Six One news on RTÉ One.

Always seen as one of the most talented broadcasters on the books, she was often asked to fill in for Seán O’Rourke on his daily radio show. Other credits to her name include The Consumer Show, the documentary Hacked and the Late Debate.

Jon Williams, Managing Director of RTÉ News & Current Affairs, is among those to pay tribute: “Keelin was the best of us – and we are heartbroken. From Prime Time Investigates to Morning Edition, Morning Ireland to the Six One News, there wasn’t a corner of RTÉ News & Current Affairs untouched by Keelin’s fearless, generous, and passionate journalism.

“For Keelin, the story was never about her – always about others. Her legacy of over 20 years journalism with RTÉ saw her help tell the stories of so many often marginalised. She strove to inform, probe and encourage.

“Always inquisitive, interested, thoughtful and kind. The fact that she presented our flagship Six One News while dealing with cancer is inspirational in itself and so typical of Keelin’s determination to live life to the full. Our hearts go out to Conor, Lucy and Ben and her wider family. We are all poorer for her loss.”

I’m signing off for now, thanks for staying with us throughout the day. 

My colleague Stephen McDermott will be on liveblogging duty for the evening.

Thanks Órla. You can send me any election-related content via email at stephen.mcdermott@thejournal.ie, or find me on Twitter at @Ste_McDermott.

More on that sad news about the death of broadcaster Keelin Shanley.

President Michael D Higgins said the nation will have been “greatly saddened” by her passing.

“People all over Ireland will have been greatly saddened by the news of the death of Keelin Shanley, broadcaster and award-winning journalist,” a statement from the presidents says.

“Driven by a strong commitment to social justice, she brought great professionalism and dedication to her work as a journalist.

“Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to her husband Conor, their children Lucy and Ben, her wider family and her wide circle of friends.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has also paid tribute to the broadcaster:

Some Sinn Féin candidates are taking a novel approach to canvassing on election day:

 

Meanwhile in Dublin 1…

The Taoiseach has also expressed his condolences on the death of Keelin Shanley:

FOUR HOURS TO GO

He might not have made it to the polling station, but he’s still a good boy.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has also extended condolences to the family of Keelin Shanley following her death today.
  
“Keelin will be remembered as a journalist of great integrity and talent. She will be missed by all who knew her,” McDonald said in a statement.
 
“On behalf of Sinn Féin I wish to extend my condolences to Keelin’s family – to Conor, Lucy and Ben, and to Keelin’s friends and colleagues at RTÉ.
 
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis”

THREE HOURS TO GO

The votes are coming in thick and fast now. But some places cast there’s before today, like Illaunmore island in Co Tipperary:

TWO HOURS TO GO

How many people actually showed up to vote? Did the Saturday election make a difference?

The unofficial turnout looks to be in mid-60s to early 70s across the country.

We have just an hour left of voting lads – it’s now or never!

We’re also just an hour away from the exit poll… a politico’s Christmas Eve.

*rubs hands together

0855 Polling stations Source: Leah Farrell

Some turnout updates:

  • Turnout is at 60% in Celbridge, Co Kildare
  • Thurles CBS at 57%, and elsewhere in Tipp, Cloughjordan is at 63%

In Shannonside, meanwhile:

 

The effect of a Saturday polling day, or an agitated electorate?

Whatever the cause, the effect is wonderful.

As we stare into cyberspace waiting for it to magically become 10pm and the opinion poll to appear, here’s some background to how it’s carried out, from the Irish Times.

The Irish Times is one of the four organisations who commissioned the exit poll – the other three are RTÉ, TG4 and UCD.

On that Donegal dinner dance that’s being blamed for a low turnout in Malin Head, the most northern polling station…

… Looks like a confirmation to me. Elsewhere:

For those watching and waiting, RTÉ are holding their news bulletin now, to leave room for the exit poll coverage at 10pm, and not a moment later.

There’s a little timer in the right-hand corner of the screen counting down the minutes…

Exactly 15 minutes to go…

Paschal Sheehy, reporting on the turnout across Munster, says that despite a particularly bad weather turnout has been high – though it dropped off dramatically in the afternoon. 

He still predicts a turnout of 60%.

Turnout is high in Wicklow: 82% in Delgany and 70% in Bray, according to RTÉ.

These last five minutes are going to be the longest five minutes of my life.

David McCullagh will bring us the results of the opinion poll. That’s all I have for now.

ONE MINUTE!

Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon has told RTÉ’s the Late Debate that the poll result was “encouraging” and that Fine Gael is “marginally the largest party”.

He also acknowledged that this was the end of the two-party dominance, but said that it was still a disastrous result for Fine Gael. 

“The ability to form a government is going to be hard out of this,” he said.

Some reaction to the poll: 

We’re going to leave it there for now. 

 

We’ll be sending out a newsletter in the next few minutes – sign up here now if you want to see what’s in it.

We’ll be back first thing tomorrow with a fresh liveblog, a caffeinated team of journalists, and a look across the country at what will be a close race for most areas. Game on.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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