Belfast Telegraph

Irish abortion referendum: Electorate of western islands first to have their say in poll

By Eleanor Barlow

The first votes in the Irish abortion referendum have been cast as islanders visited the polling stations.

An electorate of just over 2,000 in islands off the west coast were able to cast their votes a day before the rest of the country as the Republic decides whether to reform some of the strictest termination laws in Europe.

Ballot boxes were taken by boat to 12 islands in Donegal, Galway and Mayo yesterday morning, before the main vote today, to prevent delays in transportation and counting of ballot papers.

On Gola Island in Donegal the polls opened shortly after 11am for the 29 registered voters to have their say.

Presiding officer Nancy Sharkey and Garda Pat McElroy took the ballot box on the 10-minute boat journey to the island, where the polls were open until 3pm.

The polling station was opened in the home of Jimmy Sweeney (65), who has lived on the island since he was born.

Mr Sweeney, who was the first person to cast a vote, said: "We always have the polling station in here, we've no objection."

He added: "There's a lot of interest in the vote."

His son Hugh (26) was second to go to the ballot box.

He said: "This vote means a lot to young people.

"It's a difficult one because in the media you have people pushing a Yes vote and people pushing a No vote and you just need to make up your own mind."

Eleven voters turned out to the polling station to cast their ballots before the box was taken back to the mainland.

Colleen Ui Fhoruisce (30), who took her two-year-old daughter Saoirse to the polling station, said: "It was very hard to know what you were voting for until you read up on it.

"You want to be sure you're voting for the right reason."

Micheal Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig, councillor for the area, said he had been campaigning for a Yes vote in Donegal.

He said: "The reaction's been quite mixed. With those who will tell you how they are voting it's 50/50 and there are a lot of undecided.

"I think it will be very close to call in Donegal but I'm confident that through the rest of the counties there will be a Yes vote.

"We need it. Women need it."

The country is voting on whether to repeal the eighth amendment, which effectively outlaws abortion in all cases unless a mother's life is in danger.

Islanders in south-west Cork will vote today along with the rest of the country.

Belfast Telegraph

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