Thursday 27 June 2019

Westmeath election count postponed after ballot boxes didn't arrive at centre

The election count taking place at Athlone IT.
Pic Steve Humphreys
25th May 2019
The election count taking place at Athlone IT. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th May 2019
The election count taking place at Athlone IT. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th May 2019
Donie Cassidy chats with Cllr. Frank McDermott at Athlone IT during the Election Count. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th May 2019

Eilis Ryan

In a bizarre move the returning officer over the election to Westmeath County Council was forced to postpone the start of the count until the morning – because the ballot papers had not arrived at the count centre in Moate.

Westmeath County Council issued a statement on Twitter at 9.03 pm, explaining that the decision was made as there had been “no communication from the Local European Returning Officer“.

The count is now due to start at 9am on Sunday morning.

The separation of the voting papers in the Westmeath boxes was completed in Athlone by around 3.30pm, and it was anticipated that soon afterwards, the papers for the four local electoral areas would be delivered to the count centre at  Moate Community Centre.

However, as count staff waited and waited, the papers failed to arrive – and to the frustration of count officials, their efforts to find out the cause of the delay met with no success.

At around 8.17, the Longford papers were released from the Athlone centre, and Moate staff believed that that was an indication that the release of the Westmeath papers was “imminent”. The Westmeath returning officer, Ciaron Martin said that if the papers arrived before 9, he intended to see the first count completed – but that if they did not arrive by 9, he would adjourn the count.

The distance between the two centres is only around 10 miles – but even so, the papers did not arrive.

Meanwhile, the make-up of the new Westmeath County Council looks set to be significantly different to that of the last one, tallies from the count centre in Athlone are showing.

The overall party breakdown is 36.3% to Fianna Fáil, 23.3% to Fine Gael, 10.3% to Labour, 5.8% to Sinn Féin, 8.9 to Independents and 3.4% for the Greens.

Fianna Fáil looks set to gain a seat, thanks to the showing of Aoife Davitt in Mullingar LEA; Labour too is looking forward to a gain as Denis Leonard has polled enough to potentially take a seat in Kinnegad LEA.

The big loser is Sinn Féin: last time out, it had three representatives elected. However two of those candidates – Paul Hogan and Una D’Arcy - resigned and this time ran as Independents. It's possible that none of the three will make it back.

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