Islanders head to polls

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Islanders are heading to the polls to cast their vote in Ireland’s presidential election.

Voting gets under way on 11 islands off the coast of Donegal, Mayo and Galway on Thursday morning.

Islanders traditionally vote one day ahead of the rest of the country to ensure there is no delay in transferring the ballot boxes to the mainland on time for the ballots to be counted.

In total there are 2,601 islanders eligible to vote in this year’s election.

About 460 of them live on islands off the coast of Cork, but they will have to wait until Friday to vote, like the rest of the country.

Fianna Fail’s Eamon O Cuiv said islanders were at a disadvantage under the current election voting process.

The Galway West TD said he is confident that this election would be the last time those living off the coast had to vote on a different day to the rest of the country.

“As a consequence of transport difficulties and the impact of adverse weather on these services, islanders have historically cast their vote up to three days ahead of the general populace,” Mr O Cuiv said.

“However, we have improved transport services and therefore this is no longer a valid reason for non-polling day voting.”

He added that this arrangement had proved “very unfair” to residents because it meant they typically missed out on the final days of election campaigns.

Six candidates are vying for the highest office in the State.

They are incumbent President Michael D Higgins, Senator Joan Freeman, Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada and three businessmen, Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey.

Voting on the mainland will take place on Friday.

The electorate will also be asked on the ballot paper whether they want to remove the word “blasphemous” from the Constitution.

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