I always thought an electoral count would look a bit like an episode of Borgen’: lots of smart suits having political pow-wows, while graphs and pie charts detailing the electorate’s voting habits were projected onto walls.
But when I arrived at Dublin’s City West Hotel for my first local election count, I was brought down to earth with a short sharp shock.
The place looked like a car boot sale: men in cheap suits ambled about, tables were covered in biscuit wrappers and pieces of paper, party members frantically scribbled down tallies and cups of cold tea sat abandoned around the room.
I had been advised to get there early by my editor. “Watching the ballot boxes being opened up is one of the fun parts of the day,” he told me.
I suppose that depends on your definition of fun’, but I can think of other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday morning. Like eating French toast and watching Cash in the Attic’.
I was covering Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown - aka the Big One; it was sure to be full of frosty exchanges between Fianna Fail’s Old and New guard - Mary Hanafin (right) and Kate Feeney.
There were tears (Hanafin’s - natch) and curt congratulations (Feeney - obvs), but all this drama was played out at a funereal pace with far too many tea breaks and not nearly enough mud slinging.
And then there was the waiting. The dull grinding waiting for something - anything - to happen.
We waited for Hanafin to arrive. We waited for the 1st count to be announced. We waited for Hanafin to leave. We waited for Feeney to arrive. And then there were the recounts.
And all this information was delivered in the most abysmal fashion. After waiting eight hours for the first count to be announced, a harassed looking official rushed to the stage and tore through the results at breakneck speed.
This continued throughout the night - leaving politicians and journalists scrambling for clarification. “Can you repeat that?” I shouted as he bustled off the stage.
It was one of the most poorly organised events I have ever attended - and I was at the 2014 IFTAs.
“Good news,” a member of Ogra Fianna Fáil said beaming widely. “They’re going to keep counting till 5am.”
I rolled my eyes and muttered an expletive. “What’s wrong? Do you have a deadline for your paper?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. “I have a life - one that doesn’t involve hanging about a freezing cold conference centre till 3am.”
I left at 4:45am with so many questions. Why aren’t the results printed out? Why don’t bingo callers announce each count?
Why aren’t there more sandwiches? And how heavily airbrushed are PBPA’s campaign posters?
I know Bertie’s desire to ban the peann luaidhe’ was an all round disaster but surely there has to something better than this.
With the country still waiting for votes to trickle through this - it’s more like number crawling.