So it looks like ‘our stupid aul pencils’ got the last laugh. With Ireland’s 7,500 e-voting machines now up for sale or waste disposal if they can’t be sold, the end is finally in sight for a costly saga going back some 13 years. Following research and trial runs the machines were eventually purchased in 2002 for €50 million as the Fianna Fail led government sought to push ahead with their introduction. However, amid serious concerns surrounding the accuracy and security of the machines the government was eventually forced to set up an independent commission to look into these concerns. The commission found the concerns were justified and plans to use them in the 2004 elections were scrapped just a month before people voted in June. Since then, it has cost the stage a whopping €3.5m to store Ireland’s e- voting machines.
Dutch firm Nedap made the machines and public concerns in the Netherlands and Germany later prompted the decommissioning of thousands of the machines in those countries. Unbowed by these setbacks, the government – with Noel Dempsey, Martin Cullen and Bertie Ahern leading the charge – were determined that they could still salvage the situation and introduce e-voting for the 2009 elections.
Then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dail in 2007 that by not adopting the new technology ‘ this country will move into the 21st century being a laughing stock with our stupid aul pencils’.