Today's the day when the people of Mayo get their chance to have their say on the future direction of representation of the county in the Dáil. This is the time when you get to express your democratic right and have a say on who you think is best to represent the county's interests on a local, national, and international level.
Sixteen brave souls have put their names forward for the your consideration. Many of those might night have a realistic chance of making into the reckoning in the final shake-up for the four seats that are up for grabs, but by having the courage to put their names before the people they deserve the utmost respect as they let their peers voice their opinions on their ability to perform in the best interests of the county and let the people rank them in order from one to 16 or not at all.
It has been a short official election campaign, just three weeks, but the battle for the hearts and minds of the people of the county has been going on for the best part of a year, since selection conventions got under way and the the planning for each candidate and party has been in full swing for a number of months now. And things haven't slowed down at all this week, with political rallies, television debates and canvassing in full swing all week.
In Mayo we have five outgoing TDs with only four seats up for grabs, thanks to a redrawing of the electoral map that has seen a large chunk of south Mayo heading into Galway West for the first time, so we in the Mayo Advertiser have been keeping an eye on that battle too, where outgoing Mayo TD John O'Mahony is looking to pick up a seat. Kernan Andrews looks ahead to that battle in the pages inside, and we also give an in depth look at the big battle that is expected to play out in the count centre in Castlebar where three female candidates are expected to be battling it out for the fourth and final seat in Mayo. Sitting Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin is hoping to defend her seat against the challenge of the rising star of Fianna Fáil in the county, Cllr Lisa Chambers, while the popular Sinn Féin candidate Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh who has been an impressive performer since she was elected as a councillor in 2009 is also looking to take a seat for her party.
Of course there are plenty others looking for your number one and we bring you a guide to the others outside of the big three of sitting Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister of State Michael Ring, and Fianna Fáil's former Minister of State, Dara Callleary, and the female trio expected to battle it out for the last seat in the house. The late bolter from the pack, former TD Dr Jerry Cowley will hope to make a big splash, while others like People Before Profit's Tom Moran and Renua's Michael Farrington will be representing their parties for the first time in this constituency. We also have a selection of the issues that a number of candidates have been talking about in the final days ahead of the election as they look to swing your vote in their favour.
With the polling booths open since 7am this morning and remaining open until 10pm, there is plenty of time for those of you who are undecided to still make up your mind and go out and have your say. In this centenary year, when we will have numerous events to mark the 1916 Rising, it's a reminder of why those patriots did what they did 100 years ago.
By the time returning officer Fintan Murphy reads the final result, sometime late on Saturday night or early on Sunday morning, the people's voice will have been heard and we will know who our four representatives in the next Dáil will be. It could be a long count, it could be torturous one for some candidates, but it will be the will of the people that decides the outcome.