Substantial changes to the local electoral areas have changed the locations where people will go to vote for the upcoming local and European elections, set to take place on Friday May 24.
Council official Billy Coughlan told last week’s meeting of Westmeath County Council that a number of changes in Westmeath had been identified:
• The electoral division of Noughaval has moved to Moate local electoral area, and is now in the polling district of Drumraney. Voting will be at Drumraney NS.
• Residents of the electoral division of Greenpark are now in the Moate local electoral area and the polling district of Loughnavalley east. They will vote at Loughnavalley NS.
• Also moved to Moate local electoral area is the polling district of Portloman, which is now in the polling district of Ballynacargy. Residents previously voted at Walshestown Hall and St Kenny NS and will now vote in Ballynacargy NS.
• The electoral division of Gaybrook and Belvedere has split. The electoral division of Gaybrook has moved to Kinnegad local electoral area, and residents there will be voting in Milltownpass while voters living in Belvedere and Russellstown are now in a new ‘Belvedere’ polling division and will vote in Gainstown.
• The electoral divisions of Castlelost is now in the Kinnegad local electoral area and voting will be in Rochfortbridge.
• The electoral division of Tyrrellspass is now in Moate local electoral area, and voting will continue in Tyrrellspass.
• The electoral division of Huntingdon is now in Kinnegad local electoral area, which is in the polling district of Killucan. Voters from there will cast their ballots in Rathwire.
• The electoral division of Clonfad is now in the Dalystown polling district in the Moate local electoral area. Voting will be in Dalystown.
Responding to the changes, councillors aired their concerns. Cllr Frank McDermott said he would “love to see Coole added to Kinnegad”.
“By tradition, over the last 40 years, whether it was Mullingar Coole or Coole on its own, it was always mentioned, and there’s fierce confusion with the electorate out there. We would like to see Coole reinstated if it’s possible,” he said.
Cllr McDermott also raised concerns over the electoral district of Knockdrin and Owel, who “always voted in Taughmon”.
“Now they are being dragged the whole way across half of the county to go to Loughegar when the rugby club or the Gaelscoil an Choillín is dead centre,” he said.
Cllr Tom Farrell raised his concerns over Tang, saying one half would vote in Doonis, and the other would have to go to Drumraney.
“That’s a huge change for us. There will be people in Tang who will have to pass by the polling booths of Tang and go to Drumraney school to vote, the people of Doonis will have to come from the Athlone area to go to the Moate area to vote in Tang polling booth.”
Cllr Johnnie Penrose said it will be the “first time ever there will be no voting in Ballynacargy school”, while Cllr Michael O’Brien said people “are very annoyed about this”.
“The new Moate electoral area spans 50 miles, it is absolutely ridiculous. It comes within 200 meters of my home house – the new Athlone electoral area, and that’s why I will have to run in two areas trying to hang on to my seat,” said Cllr O’Brien.
“Leaving that aside, people in a democracy are normally given a right to appeal and we were given no right to appeal this. My hometown is Moate and it is the first time in the history of the state that Moate has been taken out of Athlone area.”
Mr Coughlan told council members that the count centre for the European elections will be in Athlone IT, while Moate Community Centre has been provisionally booked as the count centre for the local elections, as a midpoint between Mullingar and Athlone