Turnout high as Irish polls close

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A heater provides a warm glow as people cast their vote in Omeath, Co Louth

Ireland’s general election has seen a higher than normal turnout with officials reporting about 70% of the electorate voting.

Across the country polling officers reported bigger numbers casting ballots during the day with the strong interest continuing right up until closing at 10pm.

Students at Trinity College Dublin complained about gaps in the electoral register despite a registration drive.

And in Galway two women held a sit-in protest after they were not allowed to vote.

The high turnout nationwide is expected to be well in excess of the traditional numbers in the 60s. Almost 3.2 million voters are registered to cast their ballots, with more than 550 candidates running in 43 constituencies for 165 of the 166 seats.

Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk, the Dail speaker, is automatically returned. Polling stations opened at 7am with party leaders voting early in their constituencies.

In Castlebar, Co Mayo, Taoiseach-in-waiting Enda Kenny was accompanied by his wife Fionnuala and daughter Aoibhinn, a first-time voter, as he urged people to cast their ballot. “I hope that as many people as possible, all over the country, go and cast their vote today,” he said.

“The more people who vote, the stronger the message within our democratic system is. So between here and 10pm tonight, I would ask people all over the country to be sure and go out and cast their vote. That’s the essence and the strength of our democratic system.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, accompanied by his wife Mary in Cork, said it would be a competitive election in every constituency. “Every vote counts and I would urge people to come out and vote,” he said. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore voted in his Dun Laoghaire constituency with his daughter Grainne.

Opinion polls have put Fine Gael well in the lead to head the next government, securing as much as 40% of the popular vote – potentially allowing for a single-party government propped up by independents.

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