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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 3 July, 2020
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THE POLLS IN the presidential election and blasphemy referendum opened at 7am.

Incumbent Michael D Higgins is seeking reelection, with five other candidates in the running: Liadh Ní Ríada, Sean Gallagher, Joan Freeman, Peter Casey and Gavin Duffy.

Opinion polls have consistently placed Higgins as the favourite – with close to 70% support.

The electorate is also getting the chance to vote on whether to keep the offence of blasphemy in our constitution. 

Here’s what happened through the morning as voters trickled to their local polling stations. 

Michael D Higgins is of course heavily tipped to win a second term as president of Ireland, and the other candidates certainly have an uphill battle.

Much of the noteworthy parts of the campaign hinged on businessman Peter Casey.

Formerly of Dragons’ Den, Casey was roundly criticised by his fellow candidates for his comments about travellers.

He would be unapologetic for these comments in subsequent debates, but he wasn’t the only candidate under pressure…

In fact, it appeared that there was criticism laid at the door of all of the candidates over very specific issues.

Michael D Higgins faced questions over his use of the government jet to fly from Dublin to Belfast, and his use of expenses.

Sean Gallagher was pressed on what he’d done in public life since his last run at the Áras in 2011

Liadh Ní Riada was pushed on comments she’d previously made about the HPV vaccine, and her claims of taking the living wage from her MEP salary. 

Joan Freeman was quizzed on a loan she’d received to help run her campaign

And Gavin Duffy’s has been questions over his past driving convictions

So, when you enter your polling station today, what can you expect?

My colleague Nicky Ryan has this handy guide on how to fill out you ballot paper, as well as the dos and do-not-dos when you’re getting ready to vote.

His advice includes putting your phone away when you’re inside, and bringing ID just to be safe.

Of course, the presidential election isn’t the only vote taking place today.

When you enter your polling station, you’ll also be given a paper to cast your vote in the blasphemy referendum.

The proposal to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, and thus removing the need for the Oireachtas to legislate for it, is being put to the public after it was first proposed by the Constitutional Convention back in 2013.

We held a live debate between campaigners from both sides – arguing for a Yes vote was Jane Donnelly, human rights officer at Atheist Ireland, and arguing for a No vote was Colum Kenny, emeritus professor of communications at DCU and a former member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland – to bash out the arguments for and against and to help you decide how to vote.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Of the candidates bidding for your vote, Michael D Higgins’ social media game has been quick off the mark.

His Twitter page has even shared a short video of his dog walking along some grass alongside a message urging people to “get to the polls”. 

Speaking of Twitter, a quick scroll through the #Aras18 hashtag this morning reveals an interesting choice of costume for some children this Halloween.

The Friday before the Halloween mid-term break is usually a chance for youngsters to dress up for the day in school.

And there are more than a few dressed up as Higgins for the day that’s in it. 

What was it that Leo Varadkar said about getting up “early in the morning”?

Here was Minister for Transport Shane Ross this morning, as he says he was the first in the booth to cast his vote.

Other ministers have been out early to cast their vote this morning.

Here’s Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan (is it just me or does it look like it’s very cold where she is?) on the way in earlier on this morning.

So how many people can actually vote today?

Well, there are over 3 million people registered to vote.

Earlier this year, turnout for the Eighth Amendment referendum was over 2 million, or 64.13%.

It’s unlikely that turnout will eclipse that for sure, but it will be interesting to follow voter turnout as the day goes on.

Here’s an always-on-brand flat-cap-wearing Michael Healy-Rae casting his vote in Kerry this morning.

He says: “No matter who you are voting for, I would encourage everyone to get out today and cast your vote, it’s so important to have your say.”

The Taoiseach will also be casting his vote early today, as he’s set to visit Derry this afternoon.

Órla Ryan reports that Varadkar will visit the Apprentice Boys of Derry museum and headquarters, and meet senior members of the Protestant society.

This evening, he will will speak at the St Columb’s Past Pupils’ Union dinner in honour of SDLP politician Mark Durkan, who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, at the City Hotel.

Again, here’s Nicky Ryan’s handy guide for what you need to know when voting today. 

He assures me he followed every aspect of this guide when he entered his polling station this morning.

While you have the option of voting from 1st choice to 6th choice for the president, the blasphemy referendum is far more straightforward.

If you want the offence removed from the constitution, put an X in the Yes box.

If you want it to remain, put an X in the No box.

Image from iOS (1)

A pertinent point here, especially given some might be going for a few after work this evening ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

Various trends gain traction on social media on polling days – such as the now-near ubiquitous dogs outside polling stations.

Another one popular this morning is #ibikevote, where people take photos of their bicycle outside polling stations.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign says: “Today, when you vote, please take a photo of your bike outside the polling station and share it using the hashtag #ibikeivote.

“The aim is to remind politicians that people who cycle are also voters.”

We should start to see photos of the candidates casting their ballots soon, as they’ve already flagged when they’d be voting.

Sean Gallagher was due to vote in Wicklow at 8.30am.

Peter Casey is casting his ballot in Donegal at 9am.

Michael D Higgins is next near the Phoenix Park in Dublin at 9.30am.

Gavin Duffy is voting in Meath at 10.30am.

And both Joan Freeman and Liadh Ní Riada have said they’ll be casting their ballots at around 11am. 

Here were some voters in to vote this morning before the sun had come up in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Irish presidential election Source: Aoife Moore/PA Images

Irish presidential election Source: Aoife Moore/PA Images

Any queues into your polling station this morning?

Spare a thought for the dozen or so hardy souls out in the rain outside Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre when I passed it at around 6.40am this morning.

They weren’t queuing to vote, mind you, they were queuing for Fleetwood Mac tickets.

Anyone in the queue online for those this morning is likely to have an experience similar to this:

ticketmaster fleetwood

And here he is now. 

Sean Gallagher with his wife Trish and their two kids after they cast their votes this morning.

SGWW261018-4 Source: Tony Kinlan

Here’s another one of Sean Gallagher arriving to cast his vote this morning, with his family.

He’s just tweeted to say: “If you believe it’s time for change vote #1 Sean Gallagher.”

Irish presidential election Source: Aoife Moore/PA Images

I’m fairly sure there won’t be a plethora of “It was Stephen Fry wot won it” headlines if the blasphemy referendum does pass – even if some international press are already reporting it that way

But he certainly was a form of catalyst as his comments did cause the issue to hit a new platform in Ireland after his interview with Gay Byrne back in 2015.

He tweeted yesterday to express his support for the referendum to repeal the offence from the constitution. 

Anyone already voted today?

Bet you can’t remember which is the only candidate whose Eircode is listed along with their address…

(Spoilers: It’s Peter Casey)

Not that many reports coming in so far, but it appears that there could be a low turnout in a number of areas.

Speaking of turnout, that has fluctuated wildly in recent presidential elections.

In 2011, 56.1% of those registered to vote turned out, with Michael D Higgins of course winning out.

You have to go back to 1997 for the election before that, with a low turnout of 47.6%. Mary McAleese was elected on the second count.

When Mary Robinson was elected in 1990, a much higher 64.1% of voters went to the polls.

We’ve posted this thread on Twitter after noticing some information going around about voting in the presidential election.

Here’s the headlines:

  • Mark the candidates in order of your preference from 1 to 6.
  • You can mark some, all or even just one candidate.
  • If you really don’t want someone to be elected, don’t give them a number. 

RTÉ’s Paschal Sheehy is also reporting low turnout in Cork this morning.

He’s saying turnout in three county constituencies averaged just 2% this morning.

West Corkonian Liadh Ní Riada will be hoping to poll well there. 

It was all smiles for Michael D Higgins as he cast his vote at St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park.

Irish Presidential Election voting Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Irish Presidential Election voting Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Here’s RTÉ’s Damien Tiernan, reporting turnout around Waterford and Wexford this morning.

Labour TD for Dublin West Joan Burton says there’s major confusion in The Tyrellstown area this morning.

She just sent the following statement:

“There is complete confusion on changes of the voting station at Tyrrelstown polling station which is the polling place for an area of 3,000 homes. The polling station was due to be in the Tyrrelstown community centre. The centre is however closed, along with two schools, due to building risks announced earlier in the week.

“There are no notices on the roads leading up to the centre, on roundabouts or even in the local shops. There is just one small notice on the gate of the campus informing voters that their polling place has been moved to a neighbouring school, Le Chéile Secondary School.

“This total lack of notice or information has led to very low numbers now voting in the area. I am calling on the Sheriff’s Office who are responsible for the election management to put up notices around the area and let voters know about the change of polling place in Tyrrelstown.”

Hello everyone, Gráinne Ní Aodha here taking over the Liveblog for the next hour.

Before we get in the latest update from the polling stations – a quick recap on how to vote.

  • Polls open at 7am and close at 10pm.
  • Bring photo ID (such as a passport or driver’s licence)
  • In the referendum, vote YES to get rid of blasphemy from the constitution, and NO to keep it as is.
  • In the election, give your preferred candidate a ’1′, and number the rest in order of preference – but you don’t have to give every candidate a number.

If you’re still trying to suss candidates out – even to sort through the order you want to give your 2-6 preferences – we sat down and had a chat with each of them for our podcast series The Candidate.

Among the most interesting candidates said was:

Episodes are around 40 minutes long each, and includes a short bio at the start and analysis at the end of each episode.


Source: The Candidate/SoundCloud

shutterstock_462301423 Source: Shutterstock/Anton_Ivanov

For those of you that think the race was over – here’s something to keep an eye out for – whether candidates will get enough votes to qualify for money spent on their campaigns back.

Each candidate needs 12.5% of the vote at any stage during the count; in 2011 this was equal to 221,471 votes.

According to two polls published over the weekend, Higgins will be the only one entitled to his money back, with Seán Gallagher, who’s in second place, just missing out (he’s on 12%).

Presidential candidate and Independent Senator Joan Freeman has cast her vote.

Turnout is low across the country, which isn’t quite surprising, but will be interesting to see how it affects the final vote.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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