EXPLAINER: Upcoming Elections... What You Need To Know

Very simple concepts totally wrapped up in jargon. We're here to help.

Ireland will be going to the polls on Friday, 24 May 2019.

It's now just over a week until Irish election polling day in the 2019 local and European elections, as well as the referendum on divorce, and the plebiscite if you live in Cork, Limerick and Waterford.  

A relatively big day for the country in terms of democracy, which has encouraged us to go through the process step-by-step to ensure total awareness of what's expected of us next Friday.

Let's start with...

1. Local elections 

On polling day, the Irish public will choose 949 people to represent them on 31 local authorities throughout the country.

Once elected, they’ll hold office until 2024.

When someone is elected to a city/county council, they will collectively have responsibility for the formulation of policies, such as where the annual budget for the council is spent and relevant bye-laws, among other things. 

Responsibility for parks, libraries and recreational centres within their area also fall within the council’s remit.

Councillors also have the power to back candidates to get on the ballot for the presidential election – as was the case last year when Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman and Seán Gallagher all got the required backing to run. 

In essence, when voting for someone to make the decisions in your locality – you want someone like-minded, who boasts similar values to you and judges people fairly. 

The counting of votes begins on the May 25 and on May 31 the newly elected councillors take office. 

For more information on who's running in your locality – including Ireland's first ever candidate to hail from Direct Provision – click here

2. European Elections

Every five years, citizens of the European Union get the opportunity to vote for who will represent them in the European Parliament.

The elections will take place across the EU over a four-day period this month, between 23 and 26 May, with Ireland voting on Friday, 24 May. 

There are 751 outgoing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who served in the 2014-2019 term, but fewer MEPs will be elected this time around: 705 because of, you guessed it, Brexit. 

A subsequent decision was made to fill 27 out of the UK's 73 MEPs, and keep 46 vacant for potential future members. As a direct result, Ireland benefits from an additional two MEPs, bringing our total from 11 to 13. 

Additional seats are going to the Dublin constituency and Ireland South.

A full list of Irish candidates has been compiled by RTÉ here

For a visual on what MEPs do, look no further than current First Vice-President and Louth-native, Mairead McGuinness putting manners on Nigel Farage and his cronies. 

3. Divorce Referendum

The title of 'Divorce Referendum' itself can be construed as misleading given that the Irish electorate narrowly voted to end the country’s blanket ban on divorce in 1995.

This time around, the Irish public is being asked to vote on the constitutional details surrounding divorce; namely how long a couple should be living apart before being officially recognised as divorced in the eyes of the law. 

Under the current system, married couples need to have lived apart for at least four years during the previous five years. The new proposals would see that reduced to just two years.

The other aspect of the Constitution that will change if the referendum is passed relates to the recognition of foreign divorces.

More details on this can be found here.  

4. Cork City plebiscite

This vote only applied to those living in the region of Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

Firstly, a plebiscite is an electoral poll consulting the public on a proposal.

Back in April, the Government published its detailed policy proposals for directly elected mayors with executive functions. This outlines, in great detail, what elected mayors can and cannot do. 

On Friday, 24 May the people living in Cork City, Limerick City and County, and Waterford City and County will be asked if they approve of these proposals.

It’s important to state that, on 24 May, the electorates of Cork City, Limerick and Waterford will not be electing a mayor but voting on a proposal to be able to directly elect one in the future.

"To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." – Louis L'Amour

To ensure that you are registered to vote in the upcoming elections, you can do so here.

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