The young woman to my left was tallying for Ann Maree Quinn, an independent candidate in the Pembroke South Dock electoral area. The men to my right were Fine Gaelers. Further along the rail were Labour people. It was a joint tally, and the usual political hostilities were suspended for the morning.
Later, I tallied a couple of boxes from the European election, this time standing beside two lovely women from Fianna Fail, supporters of Daniel Donnelly. There was good-natured chat and encouragement. “Your man is doing well,” they said, kindly, of Eamon Ryan of the Greens.
“The count is the only time that politicians are real,” said my friend and political master strategist Tony O’Grady. “They call it as it is. And then tomorrow they go back to toeing the party line.”
He is right. There, in the giant count centre in the Simmonscourt Pavilion of the RDS, it is a time for candour. The numbers don’t lie. The tallies are always right. Spin is powerless against arithmetic.
There is a buzz about the hall. The whole process goes some way towards restoring one’s faith in politics: so many people, so much hope, so much engagement.
The election officials are helpful. They fold the papers towards us so that we can see the voter’s marks on the ballot. They tell us the total number of votes in each box so we can check our tallies. It’s like the tallymen and women are part of the process. And to think Bertie Ahern wanted to replace all this with machines!
Five years ago, I was a candidate. I stood for the Greens in the old Pembroke-Rathmines ward. Now, it’s called Rathmines-Rathgar, and Patrick Costello is flying the Green flag. He tops the poll on the first count, beating candidates with bigger budgets and bigger party machines. It is a wonderful achievement.
I leave at lunchtime. By then, it looks like Eamon Ryan would take one of the European seats in Dublin and Patrick is assured of a seat. All over the hall, Greens are in the skake-up for council seats. A good day.