Belfast Telegraph

President vote turnout 'about 50%'

The overall vote turnout to elect Ireland's ninth president is understood to have been just under 50% when polls closed.

Early figures put the percentage vote somewhere in the mid-20s but a small surge in the evening boosted the overall turnout nationwide.

Many regions experienced lower-than-average interest throughout the day despite the record seven candidates in the race.

Opinion poll topper Sean Gallagher, dogged by controversy over his political fundraising past and financial transactions in his businesses, voted early at Blackrock National School in Dundalk, Co Louth, with his wife, Trish.

Labour's Michael D Higgins cast his ballot with his wife, Sabina Coyne, and their sons, Daniel and Michael Jnr, in Bushy Park National School, Galway city, while Gay Mitchell voted at Kildare Place Primary School, Upper Rathmines Road, south Dublin.

Senator David Norris voted at Marlborough Street in the north of the city, a walk from his home, Mary Davis at Burrow School, Howth Road, Sutton, also north Dublin, and Dana Rosemary Scallon near her home in Claregalway, Co Galway.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, who stepped down as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister to run, has no vote but accompanied party colleague, Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty, as he voted in Bunbeg, Co Donegal.

Indications from polling stations nationwide suggested that turnout would be nowhere near the high 70% seen at the February general election. Results from the first counts in the 43 constituencies are expected early Friday evening or, depending on the final turnout, later Friday night.

While a formal declaration by the Presidential Returning Officer is not expected until Saturday, the voting pattern should be clear much earlier and the final outcome known late on Friday.

The electorate is also being asked to vote on two referendums to make alterations to the Irish constitution. One is on a proposal to beef up the powers of parliamentary committees in holding inquiries into matters of public interest, while the other would allow the Government to reduce the pay of judges.

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