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Gormley told to 'get off the fence' and make a decision on e-voting

Environment Minister John Gormley last night came under fire for his refusal to "get off the fence" and make a decision on the fate of the e-voting project.

Amid protests from opposition parties, Mr Gormley refused to clarify his position on the ailing scheme, which has now cost the taxpayer more than €51.3m.

The minister ruled out establishing an Oireachtas committee with powers of compellability to examine the scheme and decide within six months if the project should proceed.

Renewed controversy over the project comes in the wake of a decision by the Dutch government to scrap electronic voting and revert to a paper ballot for their national elections.

It followed mounting concerns that the Nedap machines, which have also been purchased by the Government, could be electronically interfered with; as well as concerns over the lack of a paper trail.

Labour TD Ciaran Lynch said it was "unbelievable" that the minister was still examining the future of the machines.

"It has been two years since the commission brought its report before the House and its recommendations are quite clear," he pressed.

Lashing out, Mr Gormley said the report had only been on his desk since 2007 and that he was weighing up the "very latest data" and considering what steps should be taken.

He pointed out that although the Dutch government had decided to abandon all plans to use the system, the machines had recently been re-certified in Germany.

The federal interior ministry had concluded they corresponded fully with the requirements of German democratic elections, and parliamentary elections in Hessen went ahead with the use of the reapproved machines on January 27, 2008, he said.

Future

As a result of the ongoing examination of the project, he said he was not in a position to be "definitive" regarding the timing of future use of the system.

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However, he noted it would be "problematic" to envisage use of the current e-voting scheme at the local and European elections in 2009.

"If I find that the cost is prohibitive and, in particular, that we cannot get public confidence in the system, I will have to look at that very carefully and make a decision on that basis. That is the situation," Mr Gormley said.

"As much as I would like to empower members of the Oireachtas, there is no need for that. I am capable of making decisions myself," he added.

In a statement following question time, Mr Lynch said that the "fiasco" of e-voting had gone on long enough and said it was time to establish an Oireachtas committee to look at the issue.

"The e-voting machines debacle has been a catalogue of disasters from the off, overseen by the stellar cast of Dempsey the Dunce, Calamity Cullen, Demoted Dick, and now John Gormless," he said.

"It's high time that he got off the fence on this."


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