Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Irish Senate voting turnout low

Latest opinion polls suggest a majority of voters will back Taoiseach Enda Kenny's call to get rid of the Seanad

Voter turnout has been low in an Irish referendum on whether to abolish the country's upper house of parliament.

As polling stations closed at 10pm - with counting due to start tomorrow morning - the percentage of those casting their ballots was estimated to be below 40%.

Despite afternoon reports that turnout was failing to creep above 10% in some parts, more activity in the evening saw many areas climbing above 30%.

An electorate of 3.1 million were eligible to have their say.

Latest opinion polls suggest a majority of voters will back Taoiseach Enda Kenny's call to get rid of the Seanad, or Senate, in a historic move that would hand power exclusively to the Dail.

A poll in the Irish Times on Monday put the Yes vote - in favour of abolition - at 62%, with 38% backing the retention of the upper house, after excluding those who were undecided.

But more than a fifth of the electorate were undecided at the start of the week, while another 8% said they did not intend to go to the ballot box.

Results in the referendum are expected by around mid-afternoon tomorrow.

The Taoiseach says abolition would create a leaner, more effective and more accountable system.

Opponents, led by the largest opposition party Fianna Fail, say the Seanad is necessary to serve as a Government watchdog and to hold the ruling Cabinet ministers to account.

The Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, is currently made up of the lower house, the Dail, from which Government operates, and the upper house, the Seanad - home to 60 senators.

Voters are also being asked whether the state should set up a Court of Appeal.

Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have all called for Yes vote, which could see more basic appeals from the High Court go to the Court of Appeal instead of the Supreme Court.

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