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Irish election: first-ever Saturday general election vote

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionIrish President Michael D Higgins cast his vote at St Mary's Hospital in Dublin on Saturday morning

Voters are going to the polls in the Republic of Ireland's general election.

Polls opened at 07:00 local time and will close at 22:00.

Counting will begin on Sunday in all 39 constituencies. Newly elected TDs will gather on 20 February for the 33rd Dáil (Irish parliament).

A total of 160 representatives will be returned to the Dáil. The ceann comhairle, or speaker, is automatically re-elected.

In most situations, the speaker does not vote, so a government will need 80 TDs to hold a majority.

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It is unlikely that any party will reach that number, so another coalition government is probable.

The election uses proportional representation with a single transferrable vote.

image copyrightAFP/BEN STANSALL
image captionLeo Varadkar casts his vote in Dublin

Voters write "1" opposite their first choice candidate, "2" opposite their second choice, "3" opposite their third choice and so on.

People living on 12 islands off the coasts of counties Galway, Mayo and Donegal voted on Friday.

Legislation to allow islanders to vote on the same day as other voters had not been passed by the time the general election was called.

image copyrightAFP
image captionFianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and family at the St Anthony's boys' school polling station in Ballinlough, County Cork

Traditionally, islanders have voted ahead of the rest of the country to ensure that bad weather does not hamper the return of ballot boxes to the mainland in time for the count, which will start on Sunday.

About 2,100 island residents were eligible to vote.

It is the first time that a general election in the Republic of Ireland has been held on a Saturday.

image copyrightNiall Carson
image captionSinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald casts her vote at St Joseph's School in Dublin

At 22:00 local time on Saturday, an Ipsos MRBI exit poll commissioned by RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and University College Dublin will be published.

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