Harris defends State's electoral system as 'valued and transparent'

Harris defends State's electoral system as 'valued and transparent'

Gráinne Ní Aodha and Cillian Sherlock, PA

Taoiseach Simon Harris has defended Ireland’s electoral system as transparent and valued, as marathon counting in the local and European elections finally came to a close.

It took six days of counting to fill all 14 seats across three European constituencies.

Our proportional representation system – the single transferable vote – means ballots are counted multiple times by hand as electronic voting or counting systems are not used.


Speaking from Castlebar, Co Mayo overnight, the Fine Gael leader said the PRSTV system does take time, but added the State “values” the transparency it offers.

“I’m a very proud member of the European Union, a very proud citizen of Europe. I love the European Union, but we won’t be told by anyone else how to do our elections,” he said.


“Here in this country, we value our electoral system, PRSTV, and we value the peann luaidhe (pencil) and the ballot paper.

“And you know what, it does take a little bit longer.

“I’m sure there’s times where lots of people here, including the count stuff, and including the journalists, wish it didn’t take quite so long – and definitely the candidates – I can fully understand that.

“But every single vote in Ireland can be seen so transparently moving from table to table, count to count. There is a lot to be said for that.”


He admitted there may be an issue with the length of the ballot papers.

There were 27 candidates in Midlands–North-West, resulting in a 73cm-long ballot paper.

There were 23 candidates in the Ireland South constituency, which the returning officer said had proved tricky for count staff.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin also said the length of ballot papers may have resulted in people not giving preferences to as many candidates as in previous years.

“I do think there is an issue in terms of the length of a ballot, just in terms of actually layout and design, but that’s not a matter for me,” Mr Harris said.

“We have an independent Electoral Commission here in Ireland now, and it’s a matter for them to consider, but I know certainly when I was voting in my own polling station, even the ballot paper, the length of it, it wasn’t even able to stay on the table.

Referring to Fine Gael candidate Maria Walsh, who was re-elected as an MEP in Midlands–North-West overnight, he added: “Now, ‘Walsh’ is pretty far down the ballot list, they still found her.”