IT is make your mind up time!
The people of Laois/Offaly will vote on Friday to determine the identity of the five candidates that will represent them in the 31st Dáil, however, two very familiar figures won’t be on the ballot paper, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Deputy Olwyn Enright.
‘I’ve lived for many years at the frontline of politics and I have no set plans for the future,” explained Mr Cowen when he spoke extensively to the ‘Offaly Express’.
First elected in 1984 the country’s 12th Taoiseach and seventh Fianna Fáil Leader believes ‘in time there might be a more balanced judgement given’ of his tenure in office.
He added, “The thing I am most sorry about is that there are people who have lost jobs. People who are worried about security in their homes and I do genuinely understand that. But we’ll come through this, hopefully a better country afterwards. Let’s just focus on the positives. It has always been my way of working.”
Fine Gael’s Deputy Olwyn Enright has held a Dáil seat since 2002 and she hasn’t ruled out a future return. “I’d never rule anything out. I’d always keep an open mind because I very much enjoyed it.”
And as Friday approaches, all candidates are making their final pitches to voters, ahead of what will be a marathon election count in Tullamore. Fine Gael will take two seats, while Fianna Fáil may also hold two. If that scenario transpires, a veritable dogfight could ensue over the fifth seat.
Upsets are clearly possible, particularly given the high number of Independents in the constituency.
Meanwhile, according to Returning Officer Verona Lambe, there are are more than 108,000 eligible to vote on Friday which is up almost 6,000 on 2007. There are 56,331 people registered to vote in Laois and 51,827 in Offaly. This is a reverse on 2007 when Offaly had more voters.
Besides a postal voters ballot box, there are 199 polling stations in all, 99 in Laois and 101 in Offaly. The ballot paper has been split into two columns to accommodate the 21 candidates and 398 presiding officers and polling clerks have been recruited.
There will be 80 counters and another 15 people approximately between supervisors, security staff on duty at the Count Centre which is located at Unit G, Tullamore Retail Park, Cloncollog, Tullamore. The counting of votes starts at 9am on Saturday, February 26 next. The budget for the holding of the election for Laois-Offaly will be in the region of e450,000.