Inishfree observes democratic principle of one island, one vote

Hugh O’Donnell may be the only presiding electoral officer to have music played to him during voting in this referendum.

Yesterday, islanders off Donegal cast their votes in the fiscal treaty, four days ahead of the rest of Ireland, and Barry Edgar Pilcher, the only person to cast a vote on Inishfree Island played a saxophone for Mr O’Donnell.

The polling booth is always set up in 69-year-old Barry’s ramshackle cottage home. He has been the lone resident on the island for most of the past 20 years.

Six people have a vote on Inishfree, but they now live on the mainland and didn’t go to the polls.

A seventh, German Hans Schleweck, 63, who lives at Maghery on the mainland but has a home on Inishfree, thought he had a vote. He has a vote in local elections but found he was ruled out of the count in the referendum.

Polling box number 210 was transferred by ferry in the care of Garda Sergeant John O’Toole and solemnly marched 350m across Inishfree to the makeshift polling station.

Information posters for voters were placed on a table in Barry’s living room before he placed the only vote in the box at 11.02am.

Shortly afterwards he entertained Mr O’Donnell, Sgt O’Toole and the disappointed Hans with Ghosts on the saxophone.

His vote will remain locked in the box at Glenties Garda station until it is transferred to Donegal for Friday’s count.

Barry, who moved from south London in 1993 “to get away from the rat race”, writes poetry, plays music, and maintains contact with other musicians in Europe via the internet.

“Although the island has only a handful of votes it is unusual for me to have cast the only vote. I value being an individual, being a poet and musician,” he said.

“Shelley I think it was who said that poets are an antennae of what’s happening.

“In the whole of the planet, Inishfree is the only place where I am completely at home and I can work without being disturbed.

“You have an overview from here. There’s nobody to influence you.”

Barry’s wife, a retired nurse, and daughter, also a nurse, live in Britain, and he speaks to them via Skype. They also get together about once a year.

He bought his cottage from a cult-like commune known as the Atlantis Foundation. They made Inishfree their base for several years before moving out in 1988.

Barry gets to the mainland once a week, on a small ferry which has been arranged to collect him so he can collect his welfare and stock up for the week ahead.

Elsewhere, up to 750 people were eligible to vote on the five islands in Donegal South West.

Their votes will be retained at Glenties Garda station, alongside Barry’s lone vote, until Friday.


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