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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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Vice President of Paralympics Ireland prevented from voting freely

Wheelchair users were yesterday required to call ahead to arrange access at some polling stations.

Image: RollingNews.ie

VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES were prevented from freely accessing some count centres during yesterday’s elections.

For some centres it was requested that those with accessibility issues wishing to take part should call ahead to ensure that they were facilitated.

In one case this resulted in the joint-Vice President of Paralympics Ireland Eimear Breathnach being prevented from freely casting her vote.

Breathnach won a number of major titles for table tennis during her career as a paralympic athlete, competing in the Beijing and London Paralympic games.

Upon arriving at her polling station yesterday, she was was initially unable to enter as she had not called ahead to request wheelchair access.

She later tweeted that she needed her big brother to help her access the polling station via the fire exit, passing the polling station’s bins.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie John Dolan, the campaign director for the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), said that the condition about calling ahead to vote means that disabled people are unable to “vote freely like everyone else”.

“On one hand it is good that accommodations are made,” he said.

But we should have gone beyond the point of someone having to say ‘I’ll be showing up at a polling station and will you facilitate me’.

Speaking about wider election issues – specifically the fact that provisions are not made to ensure that the votes of blind people remain anonymous – Dolan said that the Irish voting system had some distance to travel.

“I think what it shows is that even in relation to something that is sacrosanct in a republic, like being able to operate your voting preferences,” he said.

We still can’t ensure that happens for people with disabilities.

Read: Coalition rejected and 6 other things we already know about this election

Also: The votes have been cast and the count is ready to begin – what happens now?

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