No room for ‘notions’
Updated: Feb 12, 2020
The first time Ireland was involved in European elections, a friend who worked in the European Parliament was discussing the results from the various countries on the day after the vote. ‘When will we get the Irish results?’, she was asked. ‘Oh, in a day or two,” she replied offhandedly, much to the bemusement of colleagues whose national results were arriving in by the hour.
We use proportional representation, with a transferable vote, so getting a final result more often than not involves several rounds of counting, over days and even up to a week. It’s actually quite exciting, almost a spectator sport, as you try to work out what happens if… And a key person in the whole affair is the tallyman or woman, who stands at the railings as the paper votes are counted and takes note. According to the Irish Examiner, they are accurate to within 1%.
In these parlous times for democracy, the Irish system has many benefits. Yes, it more often than not results in a coalition government, but that’s not always a bad thing. More importantly, it feels truly representative, when each constituency can return a range of candidates from main and minor parties, and independents. Even the ‘spectator sport’ element is, in my view, a positive, as it engages the viewer in a way a first-past-the-post system cannot.
We know our politicians. We bump into them in pubs, at sports events – some years ago, the then President of Ireland almost tripped over my feet getting to his seat at the theatre. We call our current president Michael D, and a number of knitters do a roaring trade in Mickeldy tea cosies. Irish politicians aren’t allowed get ‘notions’. Isn’t that a form of democracy in action?