ANGER over the long local election count in Laois was highlighted at the new county council’s first monthly meeting.
Questioning why the issue was not listed in the latest council management report, cllr Aidan Mullins demanded: “Is it because we won’t mention the war?”
Laois was notoriously the last county in Ireland to return first count results after the local elections held on Friday 24 May. It was 7.10pm on Sunday before even a first count result was announced. The count did not end until 10.30pm on Monday 27 May, long after most count centres around the country had closed.
At the time, cllr Mullins told the media that he was “fuming” and he repeated his complaints at the council’s first monthly meeting last week, when he asked whether any “post mortem” or election count review was carried out by council management.
He said: “If there wasn’t a review carried out, I throw my hat at it. There was a lot of anger and frustration in the count centre and we were the talk of the country yet again. It seems to happen every time in Laois. The count went into a third day and the question has to be asked: why are we at the end every time?”
The Portarlington councillor said his son came home from Dubai and had to delay his flight back by a day, yet he still missed even the first count announcement. He also knew many people who had work commitments on the Monday and missed their candidates being elected.
Cllr Mullins questioned why there were two count centres, with ballot papers sorted in St Mary’s Hall and then transported to Kea-Lew Business Park, which meant time was wasted. He understood the council had to take an expensive one-year lease on the Kea-Lew building just to use it for the weekend.
He felt the team of counting staff did great work, but it was obvious that they were under-resourced. He said: “I think there were no more than six people counting at each station. Everyone there felt the number of counters needed to be doubled at the very least.”
The Sinn Féin councillor added that he was “absolutely amazed” that the biggest event the county council was involved in during May was not even mentioned in the management report for the month.
Director of services Donal Brennan, who was returning officer at the election count, was not present to respond to questions at the council meeting, as he was on holidays. Chief executive John Mulholland said any election count issues were a matter for the returning officer and he was not going answer for him. It could be addressed at the July monthly meeting instead, when Mr Brennan would be present.
Mr Mulholland said: “This is the mandate of the returning officer and when he returns from his holidays, I’m sure he will look at it.”