Europe

Change is the focus as Irish election results announced

  • 26 February 2011
  • From the section Europe
Vote counters
Image caption The ballot counters need a clear head and plenty of patience

You don't have to be a life long follower of the intricacies of Irish politics to spot the winners from the losers here.

The smile and demeanour of the victorious is unmistakable.

Fine Gael have for so many years of Ireland's history been the political bridesmaid and rarely the bride.

So they are enjoying their big day and happy to chat to the assembled international congregation here to witness it.

The Royal Dublin Showground has become an ampitheatre of politics.

As Irish politicians and journalists crowd excitedly and nervously around a TV screen showing the Irish broadcaster RTE's election programme, others peer over the metal fences that separate the vote counters from the rest of us.

Clank and rattle

Black ballot boxes clank and rattle as ballot papers are shaken out onto the wooden tables.

And for those hired to count the votes it is not just a matter of adding up the crosses on each piece of paper.

Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote for general elections, a form of proportional representation.

Voters rank the candidates in order of preference. Those counting the votes need a clear head and plenty of patience.

Little wonder, then, that we spot one counter getting just the arithmetic catalyst she apparently needed: a shoulder massage from a colleague, whilst on the job.

And above the counting floor, on all sides, the media. Local, national, international: they are all here, hovering above the fray and tapping incessantly into their phones.

Amidst chatter about declaration times, swings and coalition, I catch the sound of Spanish being spoken in the canteen.

There is interest in this election not just in Mullingar, seemingly, but Madrid too.

Irritation and frustration

And the word heard most frequently here is arguably the more powerful word in politics.

Change.

Politicians the world over expect scepticism, and prepare for cynicism. But here there seems to be a volcanic anger about those who have been running the country.

An irritation and frustration with politicians in general, and the government in particular.

Voting appears to have been a cathartic process for many, but few are expecting much to change any time soon. A changing of the political guard doesn't change Ireland's migraine of a national balance sheet.

Some mutter it could be a decade before the country is back feeling its best.

And so the emotions in this political ampitheatre are fleeting.

Yes, there is the buzz of victory and the despondency of defeat all under one roof here.

But within days the slog of governing a country in trouble will return.