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Voting apathy may have hit urban areas

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Voters leaving the polling station at Brownlee Primary School in Lisburn yesterday

Voters leaving the polling station at Brownlee Primary School in Lisburn yesterday

©William Cherry/Presseye

Voters leaving the polling station at Brownlee Primary School in Lisburn yesterday

As polling drew to a close last night, politicians were predicting a low turnout in urban areas to the east of the province but a brisker showing in rural areas to the west.

Sinn Fein also reported intimidation by dissidents in some areas.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP MP for Lagan Valley, said: “I am expecting something in the low-50s at best.”

In contrast, Francie Molloy of Sinn Fein said that turnout in Mid Ulster had been brisk.

“I am pretty confident that we have got our vote out and it has been fairly steady at the polling booths,” Mr Molloy said.

Stephen Barr, the UUP’s director of communications, said: “It is polling reasonably well in the country areas like Fermanagh and Newry and Armagh.

“It is less good in places like Lisburn and North Antrim.”

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In North and West Belfast some polling booths reported turnouts as low as 30%.

Wet weather may have discouraged voters, but the lacklustre campaign in which no single major issue emerged probably also played a part.

If these predictions are borne out it will confirm a trend of declining turnout in post-Troubles elections, particularly in unionist strongholds east of the Bann.

In the 1998 Assembly election 69.9% of people voted, but this

had fallen to 63% by 2007, and in last year’s Westminster election the figure was still lower at 57%.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein reported pressure on campaign workers from dissidents in Tyrone and South Derry.

They blamed people who had left the mainstream republican movement over the past three years and who had claimed responsibility, in a Belfast Telegraph interview, for last month’s murder of Constable Ronan Kerr.

Mr Molloy said: “We have taken a lot of harassment and intimidation from them this morning.”


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