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Fine Gael and Labour follow Bertie’s lead with Thursday vote for Presidential election

27 July, 2011 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD has described the Government’s decision to hold the Presidential election on a Thursday as regressive and yet another Government roll back on pre-elections promises.

Deputy McDonald said:

“When Bertie Ahern announced in 2007 that he was holding the general election on a Thursday Labour Youth quite rightly condemned the decision on the basis that young people would be disenfranchised by a weekday poll. Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore advocated for Sunday voting and for voting to take place over a two day period. Dublin TD Joe Costello outlined the advantages of holding weekend elections at the same press conference.

“Fine Gael were so against Fianna Fáil’s decision to hold the 2007 election on a Thursday the party brought forward a Private Members motion in an effort to ‘force’ Fianna Fáil and the PDs to hold weekend elections because ‘weekday elections prevent many students and young professionals from returning home to vote’.

“Fine Gael Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd asked the Government partners at the time to explain why they were so afraid of Friday voting and Fine Gael MEP Simon Coveney wrote to the Minister for the Environment asking him to consider holding the upcoming election on a Saturday.

“In the party’s 2011 election manifesto Fine Gael 2011 commit to reduce the voting age to 17 and give eligible citizens the right to vote at Irish embassies in the Presidential election. But unlike this Government’s recent policy and banking u-turns this one can’t be blamed on the IMF and EU institutions.

“Sinn Féin has consistently demanded that elections be held at weekends to enable a greater voter turnout. We want the voting age to be reduced to 16 and voting rights in Presidential elections to be extended to citizens in the six counties.

“Voting rights must also be extended to Irish citizens living and working abroad as is the norm in most modern democracies. Models in place in other countries should be examined to find the best model to apply here which could involve restrictions based on the length of time that a person has been abroad.

“The bums on government seats may have changed but with every announcement by Fine Gael and Labour Ministers it becomes more and more obvious that there is no substantive difference between this Government and the last.” ENDS

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