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Concerns raised over An Daingean placename ballot
The Irish Times  (Dingle in the News)
Concerns have been raised about the placename ballot under way in An Daingean, Co Kerry.
There are claims locally that the issue has seriously divided the town from its Irish-speaking hinterland, with Minister for Rural Gaeltacht and Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív saying he feels he is being "tarred with the caricature of de Valera" over the whole issue.
The postal plebiscite to determine if the 1,222 qualified electorate want to pursue a bilingual name, Dingle Daingean Ui Chúis - an impossibility under current legislation - for the Gaeltacht town, will finish on Thursday next, with the count to take place early the next morning.
However, the ballot is not secret, it has emerged. The name and address of the voter is on the ballot paper and each vote will also have to be witnessed by someone "to whom you are known personally", according to instructions on the ballot paper.
Local GP Dr Finbarr O'Shea has raised the secrecy issue with the county returning officer. He said the whole thing is leading to great upset on the peninsula. The ballot itself was "undemocratic" and it was leading to serious division.
Members of the same family may vote differently but their opinions, even at the count, which will be held in public, will be known.
People from the Yes campaign have also formed street by street committees and have advertised they are to collect the vote, Dr O'Shea said.
There was no reason the university senate postal vote model, where voting papers retain their anonymity, could not have been used, he said. He wished it to be said that he was well-known as a supporter of Fianna Fáil but this was not why he was speaking out.
Division has been created in families and between the townspeople and the people in the west who want to retain the Irish name, Dr O'Shea said.
Returning officer Charlie O'Sullivan said the prescribed regulations dated to the Local Government (Change of Placenames) Regulations 1956. New procedures under the 2001 Act that might allow for a secret ballot had not been enacted.
While the count would be held in public, officials would endeavour to protect "a reasonably possible" the identity of voters at the count.
Meanwhile, the county council has begun removing signs with the word Dingle. County engineer Tom Curran said he had given instructions to council workers to begin removal of dozens of signs last Friday on the instructions of the Comisinéir Teanga, replacing them with An Daingean.
Mr Ó Cuív said yesterday he had been caricatured in the English media by the whole affair and there was a misreading of what was actually involved in the Official Languages Act and in the options available for a name change. An Daingean was the only place out of 1,820 to complain about the introduction of the placenames order, and contrary to being dictatorial, he had calmly explained the options open to the council executive and to representatives at a meeting.
Mr Ó Cuív said he was writing to county manager Martin Riordan to express his concern that the council had persisted with a plebiscite "that the Government cannot act on", given the Attorney General had clearly advised it was invalid
Anne Lucey

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