Monday, June 8, 2009

Post Election Euphoria and Exhaustion

Phew - what a weeked! It's all over in Lismore for another five years and hubby Jan has been elected and returned to the Town Council! We are delighted and very proud of him, he is thrilled and feels that it was a real baptism of fire to go before the electorate and to get their votes, he will have a busy time now with the issues that are outstanding in the town that he has been lobbied on and that need resolution. This was his first time to canvass and face the electorate as he was co-opted onto the Council in 2006 when the incumbent Labour Councillor resigned his seat. So now he feels vindicated as he got voted in rather than be selected by the Labour Party to be co-opted onto the seat.


I had never been to an election count prior to this weekend and I really found it fascinating. Jan was keeping a cool exterior though he must have been a nervous wreck like me until it was all over! We voted on Friday in the local primary school, which means the kids have a day off, something good about the democratic process as far as the youth are concerned!


Our son in Spain got a polling card in the post as he is still on the register here, but of course it was no good to him as he couldn't get a postal vote - you must live in the State unless you have a special exemption like being in the Army or other services, and I think Diplomats can vote from abroad as well. I suppose an Embassy is technically Irish territory overseas so is valid. It's a bone of contention for expatriate Irish that they can't vote and I do think there are certain criteria that should be met but some expats should be allowed vote, especially if they are on short stints abroad, and not Irish citizens under the so-called "Granny" rule.
I will briefly explain - the Granny rule is often used by British-based soccer players to enable them to play for Ireland, and there were lots of South Africans who had Irish passports in the heyday of Apartheid under the Granny rule. If you had an Irish-born grandparent you could claim Irish nationality and as many were born to British citizens working here in colonial times the passport would have been purely expedient, and few if any would have had any emotional links to Ireland. I met quite a few of these distant Irish "citizens" in Tanzania who openly acknowledged their total lack of knowledge or interest in Ireland other than the ease of access afforded by the green passport to countries worldwide that deemed South Africa a pariah nation in the apartheid era.


Back to this weekend. We tried to have a normal day on Friday after voting - I had taken the day off - and yet it was foremost in our minds. Saturday dawned dull and cold - a far cry from the lovely weather of last weekend. We were down at the Courthouse for the Count at 9a.m. and it was a very complex structured system which I tried to explain to one of the bloggers who read my previous post on Election Fever. I don't think I'll try here! It is a Proportional Representation system which involves numerous counts after the first preferences are tallied and then eliminations and transfers of surpluses according to mathematical formulae to ensure equity and accuracy, and then the tensions of the counts which can leave a candidate sweating up to a 10th, 14th - even a 16th count as happened today in one electoral area where there were slow transfers.
Blurry pic of two of our sons and ourselves after the final count!
A summary of Lismore's status

The town is small and has a total electorate of 1,138.

There was a total poll of 820, with 8 spoilt votes, leaving a valid poll of 812.

There were 9 seats, and 12 candidates.

Therefore the quota was 82. (= Divide the valid poll by 10 and add 1)

So the count is manual, no electronic voting here in Ireland after a debacle in 2002 which left people determined to stick to what Bertie Ahern called the stupid oul' "peann lua" (= the stupid oul' pencil) with a degree of contempt as he was the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the day who pushed hard for Ireland to enter the 21st Century with Electronic Voting and not be the "Laughing stock of Europe"! They were trialled in one by-election and people didn't trust them, there was no facility for a re-count and the immediacy of the result ruined the tension of the normal counts and famously left one losing candidate in floods of tears. With the current system the candidates who won't make it have time to regain their composure and prepare gracefully for defeat.

Those infamous machines have become an albatross for the beleaguered government and have cost the taxpayer a fortune in storage costs as well as purchasing costs and perhaps we could flog 'em to Robert Mugabe or some like-minded tinpot dictator who would love the lack of accountablity inherent in these machines. They were made in Holland but the Dutch voters don't use them and it was admitted that there were flaws in the system.
The blackboard for Lismore Electoral Area in the County Council count centre


But I digress. Jan got 57 first preferences and there were 4 candidates exceeding the quota on the first count so it was down to 8 for 5 seats. 4 of these had between 53 and 59 first preferences so it was tight. Jan didn't get transfers from the surplus of those past the quota as they went on party lines, and he was the only Labour candidate. So he struggled to stay ahead and the boys and ourselves couldn't relax till the 7th count when he was likely to be the 8th elected. Even then there was a tension till the final 5 surplus votes were distributed, bringing him to 77, when he was in without reaching the quota - that didn't matter at this stage as all the votes were distributed. There is a weighting formula for the earlier counts which I still don't quite get - maths were never a strong point - but it ensures all transfers are done fairly. It was all over in Lismore by 1.30p.m.

We didn't have long to celebrate at this point as we had to get to the County Count Centre in Dungarvan to see how the County Council candidate was getting on in his quest for a seat for Labour. John Pratt was running in Lismore Electoral Area and was hot-tipped to get a seat, and he didn't disappoint, though it was after 10p.m. before John was elected, getting the first Labour seat in the Lismore electoral area in fifty years. We stayed until all the Labour seats were secured, as Ger Barron from Kilmacthomas was elected just before John, but it was nearly 1.30a.m. before the final Labour seat was filled in Tramore by Paddy O'Callaghan. Waterford City Council had a good Labour return, as did Dungarvan Town Council, where Labour got a second seat when newcomer Ciara Conway romped home on the first count, a great feat for a first-timer who looks set to have a good political future.

Labour has done very well in the European elections in Ireland with Alan Kelly who got the 3rd and final seat in Ireland South constituency (formerly Munster). Alan defeated a sitting MEP (Member of European Parliament) Kathy Sinnott (Independent - non-party) who was elected in 2004 as a single issues candidate for disabilities and has since lost some of her gloss over dubious expenses in Europe and her open support for Libertas who are allied with some of Europe's most odious far-right political parties, and is trenchantly anti-Lisbon Treaty.

Always a tricky one, to steer clear of the corruption of power. Ironic then that the poll topper in Loughrea electoral area for Galway Co. Council, Michael "Stroke" Fahey, was convicted of fraud last year and is appealing a jail sentence and hefty fine for defrauding the very body to which he was elected - Galway County Council. Also Michael Lowry TD from Thurles keeps topping the poll in General Elections despite having to leave Fine Gael for shady dealing over a decade ago during the height of one of our many Tribunals investigating planning scandals.
Makes you wonder about the electorate, there's definitely "nowt as queer as folk" and in Ireland we often attribute the elevation of the "cute hoor" or maverick who bucks the trend and gets away with it as anti-establishment and something to be lauded - a type of knee-jerk reaction to authority that harks back to the colonial era.


In the European elections in Dublin Prionsias de Rossa MEP was returned, and in Ireland East (formerly Leinster) newcomer Nessa Childers got the 2nd Labour seat in Europe, despite some nasty sniping from Fine Gael's outgoing MEP Avril Doyle who berated her for being a "Foxrock girl" - the ultimate put-down, epitomising the wealthy suburban "ladies who lunch" brigade, and gloating in Nessa's self-confessed lack of knowledge of agricultural affairs. It seems to have backfired spectacularly - the voters aren't stupid and the irony of this coming from plummy-toned Avril's well-heeled horsey background wasn't lost on them, and they showed their contempt at the cheap shots in the polling booth. Avril had form in this, as she showed in 2004 when her party chose another candidate to contest with Avril in the same Euro-constituency, Mairead McGuinness, who also secured a seat then and topped the poll this time around.
Overview of the count in Dungarvan - the tension mounting!
Thankfully the far-right extremist Libertas and Declan Ganley bit the dust and I hope we have seen the back of them. Europe is reeling from the upsurge in neo-fascism in these elections and in national local elections, it's like in the 1930s after the Depression when fascism rose to prominence and dictators flourished, like Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, with Oswald Mosley and Eoin O'Duffy leading Blackshirt and Blueshirt fascistic outfits in the UK and Ireland.
There were two by-elections on Friday also, in Dublin South and Dublin Central, after the deaths of the sitting TDs (MPs) last year. Tony Gregory was an Independent in Dublin Central whose former election agent Maureen O'Sullivan ran and won, and Séamus Brennan was a government TD whose son Shay ran for the seat and lost, breaking the dynastic tradition of children walking into family seats that they feel they own. Labour's Senator Alex White was the hot favourite until a month ago when Fine Gael parachuted in a celebrity candidate in the form of George Lee, who spectacularly resigned his high-profile media post as RTÉ's (the national broadcast station) economics reporter to join the party and apply for the nomination. It was coup for Fine Gael and Lee was a formidable reporter and widely regarded, so it was no surprise when he topped the poll and got in at the first count. As Pat Rabbitte, the former Labour leader renowned for his wittty repartee said on the count morning "Looks like he'll be assumed into Heaven before noon" and he was right - if Heaven has its earthly manifestation in Leinster House!
That's enough reflection on the elections for another five years - though the mood of the opposition and much of the electorate which showed the government what they thought of them could mean there will be a General Election sooner rather than later - certainly before the due date of 2012. I leave you with this funny link to Miriam Lord in the Irish Times with her very own Election Awards!
The count centre in Dungarvan Sport Hall - the count in progress - closely scrutinised by the tallymen and women!

4 comments:

jeannette stgermain said...

Congrats Catherine to you and Jan.!
In counting mistakes will be made, whether it's with the ole pencil or machines, LOL. we are so ignorant about this side of the ocean about the rest of the world, because I didn't know those machines were made in Holl., but that the Dutch don't use 'em! Am glad you are here at Blogger to get us some of the important info. !!

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, a great result for Jan but now the hard work begins! I am sure the whole voting and waiting for the count result is stressful but als well that ends well.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the comments, sorry it took so long to get back to reply!
JEANNETTE - I hope I made the Irish voting system as clear as mud for you now! The Dutch system is even more confusing from what I understand from Jan. Anywayit is all over now and they can knuckle down for the next 5 years, the hard work starts as Peggy says.
I haven't been around much in the past week as we had the very successful Immrama festival which I just posted about last night - have a look t my latest post.
all the best,
Catherine

Catherine said...

Hi PEGGY,
Thanks for that and I have passed on the good wishes of my blog friends to him, he is now the ex-mayor of Lismore having finished his duties during the IMMRAMA festival appropriately enough. He is still deputising as the new mayor and deputy mayor are on hols! So it is never ending! At least they have sorted amicably the roster for the mayor and the committees for the next five years not like some councils where there are dastardly deeds afoot and pacts abound.
Did you see Nationwide tonight on RTE 1? Immrama and Lismore were highlights, it was lovely to see. It's on the website at http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0619/nationwide_av.html?2565792,null,228
if you wish to see it.
All the best, Catherine.