Car showroom takes poll position for referendum

Car showroom takes poll position for referendum

A car showroom was gearing up for poll position today as one of the most unusual voting stations for the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Some of the country’s best-heeled voters will cast their ballots on the EU reform package at the upmarket Ballsbridge Motors centre in south Dublin.

Coincidentally, the site already lays claim to a little piece of European transport history, as the first place a Volkswagen car was built outside Germany.

Seamus Ryan, general manager of the dealership, said they will be pulling eight exclusive cars out of their Mercedes showroom tomorrow evening to make way for polling booths.

They were asked to provide space for the ballot because renovation work ruled out the use of nearby Ballsbridge College of Further and Higher Education, which usually acts as the polling station.

Mr Ryan insisted they agreed to shut down for the poll out of a sense of “civic spirit”.

However, he admitted that voters from one of Ireland’s most salubrious neighbourhoods streaming through the doors could help drum up new business at a time when car sales have gone through the floor.

“I suppose the benefit to us will be that it makes people in the area aware of what we do and where we are,” he said.

“Whatever number of thousands of people who vote there on Friday, there will be people who might not have been here before.”

Among the cars which will be moved outside the 4,000 square feet Shelbourne Road showroom is a Mercedes CL500, which can cost more than €200,000 with added extras.

Nearby residents who may cast their votes at the dealership include telecoms and media tycoon Denis O’Brien, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds as well as property developers Sean Dunne and Paddy Kelly.

Stressing their civic-mindedness, Mr Ryan revealed the €1,600 they will be paid for the hire of the venue – €1,200 for rental and €400 for cleaning, heating and other expenses – will be donated to one or two charities, yet to be decided.

Ballsbridge Motors, which is owned by the O’Flaherty family, will cover the expenses for the day.

The dealership stands on the site of a former tram depot were the late Stephen O’Flaherty set up an assembly plant for Volkswagen Beetles in 1950 – the first place Volkswagens were built outside the car giant’s Wolfsburg factory in Germany.

The first to be assembled there, a light green-coloured Beetle, is in the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg and can be seen to this day in its original condition.

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