Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary has called on the Government to scrap the two-tier system which sees people living on the islands voting ahead of the mainland in elections and referendums.  He made the comments during a debate on the Electoral (Amendment) (No.3) Bill in the Dáil this week.

Deputy Calleary commented, “The current situation where islanders cast their votes three or four days before polling day is completely outdated and makes a mockery of the broadcast moratorium.  They are put at a disadvantage by being forced to make up their minds before the campaigns are even completed.

“The time has come to give the flexibility to returning officers to make the call, that if conditions are conducive, then the people of the islands can vote on the day of the election like people in any other part of the country.

“As a country we do not treat islanders particularly well, which is ironic as we are an island nation.  The current voting system is yet another example of this.  Voting facilities on the islands are poor and need to be upgraded.  A number of polling stations I visited during this year’s General Election in February raised serious concerns.  Many were difficult to access, had poor lighting and didn’t have enough signage.

“The time has come to lay out a basic standard for polling stations – we must ensure that all polling stations have proper lighting, both inside and out, in order to ensure ease of access. The fact that we are still using schools as polling places should also be reviewed.  Why do we close down our entire school system for a day when there are community halls, post offices and other facilities available?

There are many issues with our voting system – not just on the islands.  We need a national voting authority to oversee the management of these systems.  We must embrace the 21st Century in terms of how we vote – not only on the islands, but for the country as a whole.  As an island nation, we cannot stand up for our rights and complain that we are ignored when we ignore those islands off our own coast on a daily basis”.