Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Gail Walker: How the election managed to leave us all out for the count

Counting starts in the Northern Ireland Assembly election
Northern Ireland Assembly election May 2011: Counting starts in the Northern Ireland Assembly election at Newtownards Leisure Centre
Northern Ireland Assembly election May 2011: Anna Lo of the Alliance party is elected for South Belfast
Northern Ireland Assembly election May 2011: A delay at the counts in the King's Hall, Belfast
Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin as the ballot boxes are opened for counting in the Valley Leisure Centre
Raymond McCord (Independent) and Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly at the count in Valley Leisure Centre
DUP's Paul Girvan and Trevor Clarke pump their fist with joy after being elected for South Antrim on the first count at Valley Leisure Centre
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson with Michelle McIlveen and Jonathan Bell who won seats in the Strangford election at the count in Newtownards Leisure Centre
Martina Anderson who was returned as an MLA in the Foyle Constituency last night at the count in Lisneal College after coming second in the poll and being elected on the first count
An emotional Nelson McCausland and wife Mary are overcome with joy after being elected for North Belfast on the first count at Valley Leisure Centre for the Northern Ireland Assembly election
DUP's Michelle McIIveen tops the poll in Srangford and is congragulated by Jim Shannon (left) and Robert Gibson at the election count at Ards Leisure Centre
North Ireland Assembly election count at Lisburn Leisure Centre - South Down Constituency. Margaret Ritchie, SDLP leader after being elected
Pol Callaghan (SDLP) who was one of the Foyle MLAs standing for re-election at yesterday's count in LIsneal College
Alliance leader David Ford celebrating with his wife Anne and kids after being elected for South Antrim on the second count at Valley Leisure Centre
DUP's Michelle McIlveen who won a seat in the Strangford election at the count in Newtownards Leisure Centre in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
Gregory Campbell celebrates with his wife Frances and party workers after he was reelected to the Northern Ireland Assembly
DUP Sammy Wilson happy with how the East Antrim counting is going in the Valley Leisure Centre for the Assembley election count.
East Londonderry MLA George Robinson (DUP) at yesterdays count in LIsneal College. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 6.5.11
Eamonn McCann from People Before Profit arrives at yesterdays count in LIsneal College. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 6.5.11
Pol Callaghan (SDLP) who was one of the Foyle MLA's standing for re-election at yesterdays count in LIsneal College. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 6.5.11
PACEMAKER BELFAST 6/5/2011DUP Nelson McCausland as the ballot boxes are opened for counting in the Valley Leisure Centre for the North Belfast Assembley election count in the Northern Ireland Assembely.Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 6/5/2011 DUP Nigel Dodds as the ballot boxes are opened for counting in the Valley Leisure Centre for the Antrim Council election count.Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 6/5/2011Raymond McCord Independent and Sinn Feins Gerry Kelly at the counting in the Valley Leisure Centre for the soth Antrim Assembley count for the Northern Ireland Assembely election.Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 6/5/2011 DUP Sammy Wilson happy with how the East Antrim counting is going in the Valley Leisure Centre for the Assembley election count.Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 6/5/2011Stewart Dickson Alliance Party checks how the East Antrim counting is going in the Valley Leisure Centre for the Assembley election count.Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson arrives at the count in Newtownards Leisure Centre in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, pictured with daughter Rebekah, puts on an id braclet after he was asked for id before being allowed to enter the count at Newtownards Leisure Centre in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections
Pacemaker Press 6/5/2011 A delay at the Counts in the King's Hall for the West and South Belfast assembly elections Pic Colm Lenaghan
Pacemaker Press 6/5/2011 SDLP's Alastair McDonnell with his family at the Counts in the King's Hall for the South Belfast assembly elections Pic Colm Lenaghan
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Ian Paisley Junior at the North Antrim Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Ian Paisley Junior at the North Antrim Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
©Mark Pearce/Presseye.com- 6th May 2011 Press Eye Ltd- Northern Ireland _____ Mandatory Credit - Photo Mark Pearce/Presseye.comElecion Copunt @ Seven Towers Leisure Centre in BallymenaNorth Antrim /Mid Ulster Count Mandatory Credit Photo Mark Pearce / Presseye.com
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Left to right. Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, Gerry Adams and Pat Sheehan pictured at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Left to right. Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams pictured at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. The DUP's Brian Kingston at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Alliance's Anna Lo at the Kings Hall.
Noel McCurdy and Johnny Currie from Rathlin Island hand over The Rathlin Island Ballot boxes to Richard Lewis Chief Executive of Moyle District Council as he brings them ashore at Ballycastle late on Thursday night, before they were were transferred to Ballymena counting centre for vertification.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast. Sinn Feins Alex Maskey and the DUP's Jimmy Spratt.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan pictured at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast. The DUP's Nigel Dodds pictured at the Kings Hall.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -Monday 5th May 2011 - Picture by Jonathan Porter/ PressEye.com - Counting starts at different count centers across Northern Ireland after voters went to the polls yesterday to elect new members for the Stormont Assembly and local councils. Voters are also took part in the referendum regarding the way Westminster MPs are elected. Counting starts at the Kings Hall in south Belfast.

A friend of mine took last Friday off because he fancied watching the Assembly election coverage. As he said: ‘I can’t stand politics but I’m a sucker for elections. All those bar charts and graphics ’

By Friday night, he wasn’t a happy man. A day watching Noel Thompson treading water was a Himalayan exercise in endurance.

But it wasn’t what my mate — or thousands of others — had tuned in for. Eleven hours waiting for the first result was enough to have anyone throwing the remote at the screen.

Friday was a day of farcical shame for Northern Ireland. A few hundred thousand votes taking two days to count. Yes, there were three ballots but there were also multiple ballots in Scotland, Wales and huge chunks of England. Yet they wrapped up all their counts within a few hours.

Not here. We suffered hour after hour of ‘vote verification’ shot with grim comedic genius: soaked ballot papers restored by hairdrier; missing ballots; rogue votes; collapsing tables; a computer system that froze when an incorrect password was used.

Amid the growing criticism chief electoral officer, Graham Shields, said it was their job to get the vote right, not quickly. Which sounds right but is actually very wrong. It is their job to do both at the same time. Otherwise, his excuse would be equally valid even if it took a month to complete the count. It is their job to deliver the result promptly back to the citizens who have voted.

They failed to do that and not for the first time. There is a long history of tardy election counts in NI. Add his patronising and peeved attitude to the debacle, and it was a devilish TV cocktail.

Like justice, democracy must be seen to be done. Instead, we had farce. The UK delivered its verdict on the Alternative Vote while our views on it were still being tallied. It felt like, thanks to Electoral Office bumbling, our votes didn’t count at all.

Though all politicians complained about the debacle, they were careful not to blame anyone. Just like the water fiasco and MRSA deaths in hospitals, it was ‘a disgrace’ but it would be unfair to blame anyone in particular. Ah, if only everything in life was as fair as politicians! However, the electoral process demands visible and prompt accountability to the people.

Instead, we made headlines around the world for the slowness of our count. We have become the Ivory Coast. Where other countries used to sympathise with us, now they laugh at us. Five hours determine the next president of the US; here it takes two days to discover who’s representing Mid Ulster.

Nobody covered themselves in glory last Friday and Saturday. If the electoral office need to ask themselves some questions, so do the media.

PR may have been with us for nearly 40 years here but that doesn’t mean we’re comfortable with it. Rather than hard facts, we had all the usual speculation and back-of-the-envelope punditry. Indeed, because of the lack of poll news, Friday saw the growth of the fiction that the UUP vote was in meltdown. Meltdown? A loss of two seats is hardly a rout of historic proportions.

Rarely did we see complete tallies for individual candidates on screen, seat by seat, count by count. Yes, we got the odd tickertape Breaking News that Joe Soap had been eliminated but nary a word about how many votes Mr Soap had and who else they went to. Laziness. Boring.

How different things are in the poor, benighted south where RTE seems to be on top of every count and every angle. But then they tend to take their elections, their politicians and their own role in society seriously and don’t just sneer and smirk.

The election was a huge embarrassment for Northern Ireland. One would think it was so disastrous that processes would be reviewed, provisions made, systems replaced, so it could never happen again. Yeah. Don’t count on it.

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