From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Mayo News 28 Jan 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
31, Jan 2004 - 21:35

Electronic voting machines delivered to Mayo

MAYO County Council has taken delivery of 300 voting machines for next June’s local and European elections, which should assuage the concerns of councillors in Mayo that there would not be sufficient voting machines for all polling stations around the county. In the event of a power cut during the election, councillors have been advised that the voting machines will operate by battery and there will be no damage to data stored. A demonstration of the new voting machines is to be arranged for councillors in the next few weeks. Training for staff employed in the elections will also commence shortly. 36 million has been spent by the government on the new Nedap/Powervote machines which are also used in Germany and the Netherlands. Under the new electronic voting system, spoilt votes will be a thing of the past, as will recounts. If a candidate is dissatisfied with the result, they will have recourse to the courts by way of election petition. According to the Department of the Environment, secrecy of the ballot will be maintained and there will be no link between the marked off register of electors at the polling station and the votes recorded in the voting machine, which will be recorded randomly.

I will miss the count with the tallymen (they were always men aren’t they?). But in reality the computer makes it possible to have real proportional representation. The old method was that you stuck a piece of paper in a box and walked away. You were relying on the honesty of the officials and the gardai to ensure that no one tampered with the boxes during the voting and overnight when stored. We relied on the personating officers to make sure that no one voted more than once. You relied on the honesty of the counters and the efficiency of the tallymen who were only able to count first preferences. Now we will be relying on a group of people some the same and some different. We are dependent on the software guys not to put trojans into the voting programme. We are dependent on the Gardai to make sure no one switches the boxes (as was always the possibility). We don’t have to rely on the honesty of the counters or efficiency of tallymen any more – just the computer technology not breaking down. But then we rely on these same factors on a daily basis every time we make a purchase in a shop or take money from our bank account or put money in or make a phone call or send an email. Some of them are definitely more reliable than others. No doubt it would be comforting to have a slip of paper printed out when you press the OK button or whatever it is that we will have to press. It would not seem to be too big a deal to be able to drop that paper slip into a box as a backup paper trail so to speak in the case of a challenge. What if Michael Ring objected and took a court case challenging the outcome of an election?

Traffic havoc

ARTICULATED trucks making over thirty trips a day hauling leacheate and sludge from the Derrimunera landfill to the sewage treatment plant in Castlebar are causing traffic havoc in the town during peak hours. The problem is particularly acute along New Line, which becomes a single-lane of traffic when the County Council trucks drive through the town to the Turlough Road. Cllr. Michael Kilcoyne (Lab.) has called for a restriction to be put on the movement of the sludge trucks, in particular, a ban between the hours of 8.00am and 10.00am when people are travelling to work and bringing children to school. He has also called into question why Castlebar Town Council is accepting sludge and leacheate (run-off from the landfill) on behalf of the County Council and pointed to the effect of such load-bearing articulated trucks on the Newport Road, already one of the worst stretches of road in the county. Patsy Burke, Senior Engineer with Mayo County Council, said that the Town Council was accepting sludge and leacheate from Mayo County Council on "a temporary basis" for the last two years. The County Council is currently looking at a solution that involves treating sludge and leacheate outside of Castlebar. The landfill at Derrinumera has a life-span of seven years, but leachate will be there for many years after the dump closes, a meeting of Castlebar Town Council heard last week.

Frankly I doubt that stopping the leachate lorry would make any major difference to New Line which always has to be negotiated very carefully. In the printed version of the Mayo News Michael Donnelly has photographed the tanker just outside Bourkes on the way down from Newport approaching the Newtown traffic lights. In rush hour that particular queue of cars and trucks is always slow and tortuous. I seem to remember that the EPA have actually put a stop to the practice once the new extended Castlebar sewage treatment works opens. The major hold up on the N5 at the moment is for the laying of pipes for the new discharge point from the town sewage plant which will be almost in Ballyvary. The idea is that there will be more dilution for the effluent down there. It looks like a treatment plant will have to be built specially at Derrinumera to replace the present transporting option. Otherwise it would mean letting the horrible gunge flow back down into Lough Beltra and the Newport River. It takes a long time for the potato peels you threw into the bin back in 1991 to decay properly and, as the article says, the dump will be producing leachate for yonks to come! Do you have a compost bin? That’s the only way to reduce the amount of leachate that has to be treated.

Firing up

MAYO had one of the highest numbers of chimney fires last year in terms of population, according to the latest annual report from the National Safety Council. Over 340 chimney fires broke out in Mayo, according to the report which also points out that chimney fires account for 20 per cent of all fire outbreaks. Chief Fire Officer with Mayo County Council, Seamus Murphy, also revealed last week that the fire service received 62 hoax calls in 2002. And he pointed out that with the technology available in the new regional control centre based at Castlebar, the fire service now had increased powers to identify hoax callers and prosecutions would be brought. In the interests of public safety and to reduce the number of fire brigade call-outs National Safety Council Chief Executive, Pat Costello, is urgently advising members of the public to get their chimneys swept thoroughly. "If you have an open fire in the home you should have the chimney swept at least twice a year, particularly when you are regularly lighting fires."

This is the time of the year when we wake up to hear stories of house fires or more serious fires. Like the one in Glasgow on the news this morning (Sat 31 Jan 2004) in an institution which took a number of lives in what seemed like a relatively confined fire. Possibly even more important than sweeping your chimney is to have operational fire alarms positioned around your house where they will alert you in time to get out of bed and evacuate in the case of an electrical fire at night for example. Ever since I saw a TV set go up in smoke in the corner of the room (and it wasn’t even switched on) I’m kinda cautious about electrical fires in the house.

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