Irish elections: Focus on turnout as voters ‘crowned kings and queens’

The importance of using your vote was the big theme from early on Friday as political leaders and punters headed to the ballot boxes in Ireland.

Politicians emphasised the value of democracy and of the possible risk to it across Europe and one Irish minister said polling day was like crowning voters as “king or queen for the day”.

Irish premier Simon Harris turned up to vote just minutes after polls opened in his locale in Co Wicklow to a gaggle of media and beaming polling station workers.

Arriving just after 7am, the Taoiseach cast his vote in the local and European elections, Ireland’s first nationwide poll in four years.

“An early start,” he said to a worker at the polling station in Delgany National School.

Referencing former British premier Boris Johnson being turned away from a polling station in May because he did not have photo ID, Mr Harris added: “And I brought my ID just so we don’t have a Boris moment.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris in a school gym posing for photographs after casting his vote. He stands next to the black box where votes are deposited.
Taoiseach Simon Harris headed out for 14 hours of canvassing shortly after voting (Grainne Ni Aodha/PA)

He then shook hands with all of the polling station workers and spoke to the media about the importance of voting before heading off on what is being touted as a 14-hour canvass across the country.

“Right, Cork!” he said as he marched towards the school car park.

The elections are being viewed as a test of Mr Harris’ popularity, who became leader of Fine Gael and of the coalition government in Ireland just eight weeks ago.

Green party leader Eamon Ryan bends over to put his voting slip inside the box. He's wearing a suit and is in a school hall or gym
Green party leader Eamon Ryan voted as polls opened for Ireland’s local and European elections (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who has been in government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail since 2020, wouldn’t divulge whether he gave his coalition partners a preference on the ballot paper.

“The privacy of the ballot box will be retained,” he cautioned a reporter who asked.

Mr Ryan said he was hopeful of a high turnout and had been told there was a queue outside his local polling station’s door at 7am.

“We don’t have a king or queen, we decide who governs and the expression of that sovereignty is in the vote. That is not a small act,” he said.

“When you vote, you’re king, you’re queen for the day. So I hope there’s a big turnout, that’s the most important thing.”

In Phoenix Park, Irish President Michael D Higgins arrived at his local polling station with his wife Sabina to cast their votes.

Sabina Higgins asked an official at the polling station whether they have been busy, to which she responded “not really”.

Meanwhile, as Mr Higgins posed for pictures, he said: “How well you are all looking, I must say. Looking forward to summer.”

After placing his ballot papers in the box, Mr Higgins said: “Sin é.” (That’s it.)