An elderly woman despondent about the state of the country has returned to the island she lived on for 56 years to cast her vote.
Bridgie O’Malley, 82, travelled on a small motor boat with her son Joe to tiny Inishbiggle as islanders off counties Mayo and Donegal went to the polls two days ahead of the rest of the country.
Ms O’Malley lived with her husband on the island for over five decades but moved in with her daughter Mary on nearby Achill three years ago.
“The state of the country is very bad,” Ms O’Malley said. “I’m nearly 83 years of age and I hope that they do something for us. They’re doing nothing for islanders. It’s very bad, the roads and potholes, it’s terrible.”
Just 27 people are registered to vote on the island and despite a windswept start to the day, the sun later shone on voters as they cast their ballot at the old school house polling station.
Polling clerk Christy Henry said he believes around 70% of the electorate came out, but claimed there was a perception among some voters that a new administration would signal little change.
“It’s a difficult one. The difficulty is people aren’t been made aware of whether we’re sold out or do we have a say now,” the 48-year-old said.
“We’re not sure if our vote does count now, because of the situation with the bailout. There’s nothing in any of the proposals that I see that would do us any good. In essence, I think we’re being ruled by Europe.”
Inishbiggle was joined in going to the polls by Clare Island and Inishturk, with 115 and 50 registered voters respectively.
Their votes will help elect five candidates in the Mayo constituency, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny’s heartland.
The islands usually vote in advance of election day to ensure the ballot boxes can be safely transported to count centres.
Polling stations also opened on Arranmore, Gola, Inishboffin, Inishfree and Tory Island off Co Donegal, with 760 registered voters.
Their ballots will help elect three candidates to the Donegal South-West constituency, currently represented by Fianna Fáil’s Mary Coughlan, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Fine Gael’s Dinny McGinley.
Patsy Dan MacRuairi – better known as King of Tory – said there was great interest on the island toward the election.
And boosting Mr McGinley’s campaign, the 69-year-old said he hoped the Fine Gael TD would be made Gaeltacht minister if the party is handed power.
But he appeared despondent about the coming years.
“The country is down the drain for the next four years and we don’t see any party making any success until the four years is over,” he said.
The Aran Islands, Inishmore, Inishmaan, Inisheer and Inishbofin, with 1,155 registered voters, will go to the polls tomorrow.