Students claim they are being denied vote in by-election by government

Students have claimed that the government has deliberately attempted to exclude them from the Donegal South West election.

There have been complaints that thousands of students from the constituency may be without a ballot.

Students are claiming the government deliberately fixed a Thursday for the by-election so they couldn’t leave their studies and get home to vote and they wouldn’t have time to apply for postal votes.

Under law, those entitled to a postal vote have to complete their forms within 48 hours.

Donegal County Council said as the 48 hours would have ended on a Saturday when there was no post they accepted applications until Monday.

A spokesperson said students and others entitled to vote by post could have downloaded their application forms, completed them and posted them by land as they had to have the original college verification confirmation that they couldn’t get away from their studies.

Independent candidate Thomas Pringle said it was a deliberate plan by the government to leave so little time because they know the student vote will go against them.

He wondered why wasn’t the bye-election fixed for a Friday when students away at college could return home in time to vote.

Union of Students in Ireland President Gary Redmond said his organisation had been trying for a long time to get voting on Saturdays when most students could return to their constituencies to vote. He added that with feared increases in fees, as well as other educational issues, most students were likely to vote against the government.

One student without his first-time vote for a Dail seat will be 19-year-old Alan Cunningham, from St John’s Point, Dunkineely.

He is a bio-medical science student at DIT in Kevin Street, Dublin. He said he will be unable to travel home for the Thursday vote because he has two compulsory laboratory sessions that day in college.

He said he phoned Donegal council on Monday and was told that unless he could get his application in on that day he would be without a vote. He couldn’t get it in as he didn’t even have time to travel from Dublin with it.