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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May 2005, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Parties criticise late counting
UK polling station
NI's results are expected to be among the last declared.
The electoral office is facing renewed questions over why Northern Ireland's counts will not begin on Thursday night.

Lord Kilclooney, who used to be the UUP MP for Strangford, says the delay made the province look idiotic.

He says the chief electoral office is answerable to the public on the matter but its chief officer said it was not possible to organise the counts any quicker.

Results in NI are not due until Friday.

Lord Kilclooney said: "You say to yourself why is Northern Ireland so different from England and Wales and Scotland?

"It used to be we had our counts the same night so we can do it. The question is why does the electoral office not do it now."

When this is first past the post we can't understand why it isn't started automatically as soon as the polling stations are closed
Patricia Lewsley, SDLP

The former MP also questioned why the electoral office used paid volunteers instead of council staff to work at the counts in contrast to the situation in England.

He said the issue needed to be brought up in Parliament.

"It's time to air the problem. I think they're dragging their feet," he said.

But Chief Electoral Officer, Denis Stanley, said it was nonsense to suggest there was any dragging of feet on the issue.

Mr Stanley said he had 4,500 people in 1,532 polling stations who would be working from morning to late evening on Thursday and could not then be expected to work through the night as well.

He also said it was very difficult to find enough people who could give up their time to work as election workers.

He said the suggestion about employing local government staff was not one for him to make. "I don't have any right to go and order anyone out of a council to come and work for me," he said.

"I think the role of the electoral office is to produce an accurate result, not to rush through and get it wrong," he added.




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