Irish Republican News · March 3, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ahern appoints quango to oversee e-vote

The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern came under strong presure from the opposition parties over his government's electronic voting plans in the Dail today.

Ahern has insisted in going ahead with the immediate implementation of the e-voting plan despite widespread concern at the reliability and verifiability of the system.

Enda Kenny, leader of the Fine Gael party, today described the planned use of electronic voting in this year's local and European elections as ``a shambles''.

He also criticised the coalition government's failure to adequately consult the opposition leaders about the appointment of an independent body to examine the electronic voting plans.

The commission will have the power to recommend its postponement or abandonment when it produces its first report, even though the system has cost ¤40 million to date.

The Cabinet decided at its weekly meeting that the new body, headed by a High Court judge, Justice Matthew P. Smith, will be able to hire as much technical expertise as it needs before giving a verdict before May 1st on the security and accuracy of the voting machines.

The other members of the Electronic Voting and Counting Commission are Mr Kieran Coughlan, clerk of the Dáil [lower house]; Ms Deirdre Lane, clerk of the Seanad [Senate]; Mr Danny O'Hare, the former head of Dublin City University; and Mr Brian Sweeney, chairman and former chief executive of Siemens Ireland.

Although the Department of the Environment continued to express confidence in the system, which is scheduled to be used throughout the State in local and European elections on June 11th, a spokesman said: ``If they tell us at the end of the day that it cannot go ahead, if they raise serious concerns, then the Government could not proceed.''

The Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, said the Government's decision not to consult the Opposition about the make-up of the commission was quite unacceptable, and would simply increase public disquiet about the use of a system that was patently unreliable and unsafe.

Facing the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, in the Dáil, Mr Rabbitte said the Government had ``dragooned'' the clerks of the Dáil and Seanad, who were both senior civil servants, into becoming involved in ``a partisan situation''.


Meanwhile, concerns over the voting system in the North have only grown since last November's Assembly election.

Sinn Féin Assembly Member Bairbre de Brún will tomorrow lead a party delegation to meet with the Chief Electoral Officer Denis Stanley in Belfast. The meeting, which is being held at Sinn Féin's request is to discuss what it described as the serious shortcomings which currently exist in the Electoral Register which his office has compiled.

Ms de Brun said that an ``annual shredding'' of voters will continue to take place unless action is taken.

It is estimated that around 211,000 people in the six counties are currently disenfranchised. In the three months from the Assembly election last November a further 28,000 people were removed from the register.

``It is not a sustainable situation for around one fifth of the total electorate to be missing from the register,'' said de Brun.

``We will be presenting to Mr Stanley a number of proposals which we feel his office could adopt to try and help restore public confidence in the electoral system.

``This meeting is part of a series of meetings which we will be having on this issue with the two governments, the Electoral Commission as well as international groups and the voluntary and community sector.

``It is our firm view that the legislation which has given rise to this gerrymander needs to be reviewed and amended as quick as possible. In the meantime those removed from the register need to try and reassert their right to vote through the existing mechanism of rolling registration.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News