Tony Mc Loughlin TD has raised the issue of why the polling booths in many Communities across Sligo and Leitrim and indeed nationally have to be schools.
Under a debate on topical issues Deputy Mc Loughlin asked the Minister of State to request local returning officers to seek expressions of interest from other bodies such as community halls, local authorities and public buildings to provide for polling booths for elections and referenda.
“The closure of schools is a major inconvenience to many parents especially working parents who have to arrange child-minding and also because children loose a day’s education”
“20 years ago there was less public buildings based in our communities but now where possible we should seek alternatives for polling stations other than schools” stated Deputy Mc Loughlin.
In reply Minister for State Fergus O’Dowd pointed out that schools were located well and were adapted well for people with disabilities and were available free of charge. He stated that many halls and other public buildings were used as an alternative to school buildings.
Deputy Mc Loughlin also urged the Minister to ensure where possible people employed as polling clerks would come from the unemployed sector or at the least that preference would be given to people employed part time in the private sector.
In conclusion the Sligo Leitrim Deputy urged the Government to set polling days for week-ends to allow a maximum number of people to vote. The indications are that the Government are looking at this proposal and it is expected that the Minister will indicate a change shortly and that the traditional voting days such as Thursdays and Fridays will move to Saturdays.