Turnout was low because ‘everything seemed fine’

FROM the visuals, it looks like Fianna Fáil’s Chris Andrews is guaranteed two votes at least when the country goes to the polls today.

The back bencher was one of the local candidates in the Dublin South East constituency to attend an open meet-and-greet forum in the Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre, but was spotted planting a kiss on the cheeks of two middle-aged ladies.

This constituency had the lowest turnout nationally of just 53.78% in 2007.

Many of the candidates believe that the low turnout four years ago was due to the musty nature of the electoral register — “a mess” according to Fine Gael candidate Eoghan Murphy. People walking the streets close to the St Mary’s Centre for the Visually Impaired on Merrion Road — a polling centre for Pembroke East D1 which had a turnout of just over 12% in 2007 — believe that back then, elections did not seem as important as now.

“People were happy with their lot and everything seemed fine, so they didn’t vote,” says one man who did not wish to be named. Aileen, a member of staff at St Mary’s, said that in her view many of the 62 votes lodged in 2007 in the centre would have been from residents, claiming: “They’re all registered.”

Today, it is hard to find anyone in this area — literally, as some of the McNamara built properties are empty.

Dermot Cooke, a sprightly man of 81 from Herbert Avenue in the area, has his own theory as to why turnout was so pitifully low last time out.

“People took it for granted before,” he says. “Over the months and years they have had to wake up.”

There are four seats up for grabs in Dublin South East. Candidates include sitting TDs Ruairi Quinn of Labour, Green Party leader John Gormley, Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton, and Fianna Fáil’s Chris Andrews. With Quinn and Creighton expecting to be returned, the battle for the remaining two seats is fierce, and has been given added flavour by the emergence of Fine Gael Cllr Eoghan Murphy, Sinn Féin’s Ruadhán Mac Aodháin and a number of independents.

The youngest person running here is Dylan Haskins, 23, who believes that polls are outdated in a constituency which includes such a huge number of people living in flats and apartments.

John Gormley admits that the broad cross- section of people in the constituency, and the high number of transient residents, means getting a handle on the numbers can be tricky.

“You can find a certain amount of alienation and disenfranchisement.”

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