Islanders cast first votes on Lisbon Treaty

Islanders off the north west coast of Ireland became the first people to vote on the Lisbon Treaty today, with the most remote said to be on the verge of rejecting it.

Islanders off the north west coast of Ireland became the first people to vote on the Lisbon Treaty today, with the most remote said to be on the verge of rejecting it.

Ballot boxes were shipped and flown off Donegal to Arranmore, Gola, Inishbofin, Inishfree and Tory Island to let around 800 early voters have their say on Lisbon II.

Presiding officers remained tight-lipped on a possible outcome, but King of Tory Patsy Dan Rodgers said his 150 subjects were swaying towards a No vote.

“I think the majority is going to vote No,” he said.

“The teenagers aren’t getting jobs here and there’s another opinion that, being in the Common Market, all the factories are closing down in Ireland.

“Things don’t seem to be going successfully for being within it.”

Mr Rodgers said people on the three-mile (5km) long island, 7.5 miles (12km) off north Donegal, would have preferred to vote on Friday like most of the population.

“They would like to have the vote on the same day to have the last opinion - now you’re going to miss a few TV and radio programmes that could be quite serious between now and then,” the island-appointed king added.

“But there’s always a good enough turnout on Tory. It’s like a marriage – for better or worse they’ll come out and vote.”

On Inishfree, where just seven people are registered to vote, the ballot box arrived by ferry with a garda escort.

Barry Edgar Pilcher’s cottage was transformed into a polling station for the day as the 66-year-old entertained voters with tunes on the not-so-traditional saxophone.

“I was first to vote and I’m the supervising officer as well so I’ve been getting the tables and the sandwiches ready,” he said.

“We look after our voters here.”

Mr Pilcher, originally from south east London, said he did not know which way the island would swing.

“I voted No because I think we shouldn’t give our power away,” he added.

“Donegal is not like the rest of Europe, it’s not commercialised and it’s something special.”

Air Corps helicopter crews had been due to take ballot boxes out to the islands and collect them in a whistlestop tour but low cloud and poor visibility forced officers to postpone.

On a misty and overcast Arranmore, two stations had been set up to accommodate the island’s 700 voters.

Presiding officer Mary Gallagher said inhabitants were not well enough informed about the Treaty first time around.

“They didn’t know enough about it. Hopefully this time now they will,” she said.

Around 1,200 voters on the Aran and Inishbofin Islands off Co Galway are set to go to the polls tomorrow along with about 200 voters on the Mayo Islands of Inishbiggle, Inishturk and Clare Island.

Meanwhile, almost 500 islanders off the coast of Cork will vote along with the rest of the country on Friday.

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