A full recount is due to get under way in the constituency of Ireland South next Tuesday which will cost more than a €1 million and last up to 28 days.
It will proceed despite sitting Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada picking up just one vote on Thursday morning after the examination of 200,000 papers.
The hall at Nemo Rangers GAA club in Cork will be sealed until the count resumes next week. Returning officer Martin Harvey denied suggestions that it was a logistical nightmare.
“It is difficult but it can be overcome. We will overcome it and we will do it. Unfortunately it will take time. What we are proposing is to count from Monday to Friday from nine until five or six in the afternoon. We won’t count at weekends. If we did we wouldn’t be able to get the staff. This is democracy in action and in process. I haven’t worked it out yet [the cost] I have heard reports of [it costing] over a €1 million; hard to call.”
One vote from 200,000 papers
Mr Harvey said hehad not considered turning down the request for a full recount.
He said the recheck on Thursday had the net effect of Ní Riada picking up one vote from counting approximately 200,000 papers.
“But as I say this is democracy in process and Liadh has every right to call a full recount and we are happy to proceed with that.”
The returning officer acknowledged that staff were tired after five days of counting. He said he was looking into recruiting employees from other areas.
It is understood that Garda resources are under pressure given the number of officers deployed to Clare for the Trump visit.
Ní Riada sought a recount of votes as is a final battle for the fourth and fifth seats with the Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan and Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune. Once the count is completed, the fifth place finisher will be placed in reserve until the UK leaves the EU.
Ed Davitt, electoral agent for Ms O’Sullivan , said that he understood the reasoning for the recheck.
However, he said he was not sure if his party would have gone down the route of a full recount if the positions were reversed.
“It is disappointing that we are going to be waiting a few weeks for the actual result. We are very concerned about the constitution of the new parliament. That is meant to happen on the first of July. We have been told that we are looking at 28 days for this process to complete itself. We don’t think the result will be overturned. But there is no bad blood.”
But the Sinn Féin TD in Cork North Central, Jonathan O’Brien, said a full recount was required in order for the party to have confidence in the outcome.
“This morning we did a partial check of both Grace and Liadh’s votes. During the process there was a number of discrepancies found. We felt a full recount of all votes was the only option open to us. [This morning] We are talking about a very small partial recheck of two candidates. There was 720,000 votes cast so in order to have full confidence in the process, not just for ourselves but for people who took the bother to go out and actually vote on the day, I think they deserve to have a very adequate result. The only way we can get that is to by having a full recount.”
Price on democracy?
Mr O’Brien insisted that you couldn’t put a price on democracy.
“I don’t put any price on democracy . . . the net result was one vote in favour of Liadh, but there was a number of discrepancies and we did a very partial recheck. I estimate about 2 per cent of the votes cast were rechecked. There is still another 98 per cent there left to be checked. We don’t know how many errors are contained in that. There is only one way to find out and that is to have a full recheck.”
As it stands just 327 votes separate the fifth and sixth candidates.
The recheck and recount was ordered after Ms Ni Riadha looked set to be eliminated. Grace O’Sullivan secured 98,706 votes putting her ahead of her rival Sinn Féin rival on 98,379 votes.
Independent TD Mick Wallace garnered 112,441 votes and is set to be elected without reacting the quota. Sitting Fine MEP Deirdre Clune is on 111,012 and will take one of the last two seats.
Two hundred count staff have spent four days counting 750,000 ballots in a cumbersome process involving huge volumes of paper.