IT’S ALL OVER bar the counting.
Then again, the counting could take a while…
Polls closed in Election 2014 at 10pm last night, and a massive operation’s now sweeping into action at count centres across the country.
It’s set to be a long process — with the local elections, European elections and two by-elections in Dublin West and Longford-Westmeath all to be dealt with.
The country last voted in the Euros and the locals five years ago — but the electoral landscape’s been altered significantly in that half decade.
In the European elections, the four constituencies covering the Republic of Ireland are being slimmed to three, with 11 MEPs being elected in Dublin, Midlands-Northwest and Ireland South.
And in the locals, it’s effectively a game of political musical chairs as we vote to elect 949 councillors (down from 1,627 at the moment) as towns and borough councils are abolished and other councils merged.
So what happens now?
President and Sabina Higgins cast their votes yesterday.
The process gets under way this morning at 9am at local count centres all over the country.
However, before any votes can be counted, the local and European ballots have to be separated.
This could take longer in some areas than others — but the whole process should be over and done with by midday. That’s when the Defence Forces sweep in.
The Defence Forces?
Yes, the Defence Forces…
Some 60 military personnel will be involved in the count process today, ferrying ballot papers for the Euros from the local centres in each of the 26 counties to three centralised counts for the Brussels parliament, in Dublin (RDS), Castlebar (Royal Theatre) and Cork (at Nemo Rangers’). If you happen to see an Air Corps helicopter sweeping low over your house today so, most likely that’ll be why.
Once the papers are separated, the counting for the local elections can get under way properly.
By this stage though, we should also have the parties’ tallies giving indications of results, and there’ll be the RTÉ exit poll which will give an idea of what’s going to happen in all three elections. The first findings of the RTÉ/B&A poll will be announced around 9am, as the broadcaster begins its count coverage.
- Read: What is tallying?
In terms of when we’ll have any seats filled, the first actual results should come at some stage in the late afternoon.
Again, considering the various different sizes of the local authorities, the process is expected to go on for quite some time. The small hours of the morning, potentially. Returning officers in each centre make the call on what happens.
Counting for the two by-elections, in Dublin West and Longford-Westmeath also takes place today.
There were separate ballot boxes for the two areas — so no separation needs to happen here. Based on tallies once again, we should have some clear indications how things are going by noon or so.
However, Dublin West wasn’t settled until the fifth count last time out, so it could be a long night for the Dáil candidates today too.
FG’s Eamonn Coghlan and independent David Hall square up for the cameras on the Dublin West canvass.
What about the Euros?
The main attention switches to the European vote on Sunday morning, with action again getting under way at 9am or so. Once again, by that time we’ll have an indication how things are going based on the exit polling from RTÉ and from Saturday’s tallying.
From what we’re hearing, however, the tallies for the Euros totted up on Saturday may not be all that reliable, as it’s likely the locals will be prioritised. Candidates’ representatives will have another opportunity to check out how things are going as the count proper starts on Sunday.
Here’s an important thing to remember though (so important that I’m going to render it in bold type)…
- Official results from the election won’t be announced anywhere until 10pm (Irish time) on Sunday night.
Member states are prohibited by the European Commission from announcing any results until the polls close in the last country to vote (Italy in this case). The Netherlands, which published provisional results before most countries had even voted in 2009, has promised it “will keep to the European agreement” (troublemakers!).
We can’t say anything here until they’re done and dusted in Italy.
Another late night
Because of the sheer scale of the operation, it’s looking like we may not have a first count completed in any of the Euro constituencies until early evening (possibly late evening in the 15 county Midlands-North West) so the whole 10pm thing may not be too much of a factor after all.
The process could go on well into the early hours again on Sunday night (in Dublin last time, for instance, they finished the day at 4am). In all probability, there’ll still be plenty of work to be done the following day too, when Northern Ireland also begins totting up the votes for the ten candidates running to fill its three seats.
Obviously, it goes without saying that we’ll have full coverage throughout the long weekend (and beyond) here at TheJournal.ie.
Join us, won’t you?