Fortune lambasts running of General Election count
‘A CHILD’S BIRTHDAY PARTY WOULD HAVE BEEN RUN BETTER’
A SIX-YEAR-OLD CHILD'S birthday party would have been better run that the Wicklow General Election count according to Cllr. Tom Fortune.
During Monday's meeting of Wicklow County Council Cllr. Pat Vance looked for a suspension of standing orders to discuss the ‘ total lack of experience and cohesion' during the count on February 26.
‘ This is nothing to do with the result or anything like that' but he said that from talking to people ‘ they are all appalled at the standards'.
‘It took 13 hours for the first count result when some counts were actually finished. It seemed to be that the people behind the counter had absolutely no experience or training and some couldn't even show the ballot papers to the people tallying. Some of the staff showed a total lack of cooperation. There was a total lack of experience and cohesion and a total lack of communication to the public.
‘I just feel that there should be a system for every count in the country when it comes to communication. People hadn't a clue what was going on. I'm just asking that the relevant department, either Environment or Justice, to appoint someone to look into the situation in Wicklow so that it never happens again.
‘Really and truly we need to call on the relevant department to look into what happened in Wicklow so that we are not the laughing stock of the whole country.'
He was supported by Cllr. John Snell who said ‘when people like Cllr. Vance who has been to a large number of election counts raises concerns I think we should all listen.'
He also condemned the lack of communication at the count. ‘ There was a lack of information for the public and by and large the people in the public gallery didn't know what was happening. There was a very small number of counters who didn't seem to have a grasp on what they were doing.'
Cllr. Irene Winters said it ‘is very unfortunate that due to the recruitment embargo we don't have our own county registrar and I think if we had the staff would have been more experienced because there would have been more contact’. Cllr. George Jones said there had been an ‘inordinate delay and a lot of the time people were sitting down doing nothing'.
Cllr. John Byrne said when the Labour Party candidates had handed in their nomination papers they had been told that the count ‘could be carried out within a day'. However, on count day he said ‘ the impression I got was that a lot of people had never carried out a count before’.
Cllr. Byrne said there was a wealth of experienced staff in the local authorities, many of which were not used. ‘In the local elections everything was open and transparent and I didn't think that during this election. I was amazed when two or three candidates were eliminated together and the result given.'
Providing a lighter moment Cllr. Nicky Kelly said, ‘I think it was Joseph Stalin who said it's not the people who vote that count but the people who count the votes!' He said the staff had ‘ been asked to perform a mammoth task in a highly emotive situation'.
Cllr. Casey said ‘ the lack of information was very frustrating for people in the public gallery.
‘Once the 13rd count results were announced on Sunday evening there were no more announcements until 10pm the following night.
‘We pleaded and pleaded with her to announce something because the crowd was getting restless and at one stage I had to plead with the public because they were starting a slow clap and stamping their feet.'
Cllr. Mick Glynn said as a tally man he felt ‘we were an inconvenience'. He said there was a great deal of methodical back end filing by the staff that the public couldn't see.
He also said he felt that when the recount was called on Sunday evening counting should have continued to help deal with the recount efficiently.
Cllr. Pat Fitzgerald said, ‘ The public were totally bemused by the lack of information. I think it is a farce. At lunch time on Monday other people arrived to give a helping hand but it's water under the bridge for me now.'
Cllr. Tom Fortune said, ‘I believe quite passionately that it was the worst organised event I have seen in a long time. When people were told they were making mistakes they didn't want to know. ‘A six-year-old children's birthday party would have been better run,’ he said. ‘It became such a joke at the end that there could have been serious trouble there.' Acting county manager Bryan Doyle said he would pass on the concerns of the members to the Department of Justice.