Local elections drew 400,000 extra voters

ALMOST 400,000 more people turned out to vote in last year’s local elections - a 10% hike on the previous election, a study has revealed.

There was a lot of concern before the local elections about the declining numbers of voters, with the figure hitting an all-time low of 50% in 1999, according to General Council of County Councils (GCCC) director Liam Kenny.

But the trend was reversed in 2004, with 1.839 million Irish people voting and the turnout in a number of Dublin and Cork electoral areas doubling, Mr Kenny added.

His latest book, From the Ballot Box to Council Chamber: A Guide to Ireland’s County and Town Councillors, reveals the turnout in Fingal, South Dublin, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown accounted for one in every four votes cast nationally.

There was also a major increase in the turnout in the Cork commuter belts of Carrigaline and Midleton, with the votes almost doubling on the 1999 local elections.

Mr Kenny believes there were a combination of reasons for this major increase in urban voter turnout. These include:

The controversial citizenship referendum which touched an emotive note for many.

The desire to give the Government parties a verdict on their performance since the 2002 general election.

The high visibility of the European Parliament election.

Intensive street canvassing by some parties.

Mr Kenny’s study of the 2004 local elections also shows that the huge losses suffered by Fianna Fáil - 80 seats - could have a detrimental effect on its current number of Seanad members.

Over two thirds of our 60 senators - 43 - are elected by local councillors; the Taoiseach nominates 11 and the remaining six are elected by university graduates.

The Coalition parties of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats lost 86 council seats between them in the last local elections. Their combined numbers dropped from 407 in 1999 to 321 in the June 2004 local elections.

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