Political leaders cast ballots in Irish General Election

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By Aoife Moore, PA

The leaders of the main Irish political parties have cast their votes in the 2020 General election.

The polls will fill 159 of the 160 seats in the 33rd Dail, with 515 candidates running in 39 constituencies.

Micheal Martin, flanked by his wife Mary, daughter Aoibhe and sons Micheal Aodh and Cillian, cast their votes early on Saturday morning in Ballinlough in front of a waiting media pack, with Aoibhe Martin stating it was "the easiest choice ever" as she cast her ballot.

Mr Martin kissed his wife outside for waiting photographers, and spoke to constituents about what he deemed an "energetic" campaign.

His opposition rival, the Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, voted at his local polling station in Castleknock in Dublin at around 12.30pm.

Mr Varadkar brought a box of Roses sweets to give to count staff at the centre and thanked supporters for their work in the campaign.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina cast their votes at St Mary's Hospital in Dublin, where the President mentioned how mild the weather had been so far.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan cast his vote in the Muslim National School, Clonskeagh, Dublin, while across the city, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald cast her vote at St Joseph's on the Navan road, before a large media presence who were waiting for her.

Ms McDonald posted a video from outside her polling station on social media encouraging all voters to cast their ballot on Saturday to "vote for change".

"Today's a very important day, a day where the people are in charge, and every single vote counts.

"People have told us throughout the campaign that people want change, so we're saying to come out and vote for that change."

While the country braces for winds and rain brought on by Storm Ciara, most major cities remained unaffected by weather by early Saturday afternoon, which pollsters said could aid a higher turnout than in other years.

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