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E-voting machines could find a home in pubs - Noonan

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has said Irish pubs around the world could offer new homes for defunct and costly e-voting machines.

The idea would give punters and emigrants the chance to vent their electoral anger on 7,500 electronic units rather than turning to jukeboxes and gaming machines.

"Fianna Fail thought it would not be fashionable as Bertie (Ahern) said to be 'using the peann luaidhe' any more and that you needed to have a hi-tech machine," he said.

"But when the hi-tech machine was checked out it didn't do the job that it was supposed to do so the system was flawed. They are valueless now.

"There may be a market for them in Irish-themed pubs across the world."

It is understood the Government is aiming to get rid of the machines over the next six months and is discussing whether to try to sell-off or recycle.

The idea was the brainchild of Mr Ahern's Fianna Fail government at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom and promoted by former ministers Noel Dempsey and Martin Cullen.

The botched plan has cost the taxpayer 55 million euro since the machines were first used in 2002 when former Fine Gael minister Nora Owen suffered sudden defeat in the general election. They were also piloted in the Nice referendum. Storage alone costs 145,000 euro a year.

The plug was pulled on nationwide rollout of e-voting for the 2004 European and local elections after an expert committee ruled against using the system.

The machines, which are believed to be out of date and not even fit for educational use, were manufactured by Dutch firm Nedap. Serious public concerns in Ireland, Holland and Germany have prompted thousands of similar units to be decommissioned.

Most of the machines are stored in Gormanston army camp, Co Meath, with another 14 machines in the Custom House, Dublin, and a small number held locally by returning officers.

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