Up for the count


A chara, – I do not always agree with what I read in The Irish Times, but I must commend you heartily on your election results supplement – excellent presentation, clear organisation, and easy readability. I will keep it and re-read it frequently. I enjoyed too the pen-portraits of the successful candidates containing many eye-opening facts not available elsewhere.

Two things struck me. First, despite our much-vaunted proportional representation system, in 18 of the 39 constituencies, all of those elected were those who received the most preferences on the first count. Second, we should all appreciate the central role that mathematics plays in our electoral system – vote counting, total valid poll, transfers, percentages, quotas (how many people know the formula for calculating a quota and why it is so?), etc.

Now we are faced with the arithmetic of deciding who can form a government, with many possibilities and combinations. How on earth could one run a democratic election without the help of our wonderful number system? And the validity and correctness of the mathematics involved is one topic (possibly the only one) on which all of the electorate agree. – Is mise,


(Emeritus professor

of mathematics, UCC),

Blackrock, Cork.