Back in 2002, they paid €50 million for 7,000 e-voting machines, which works out at about €7,200 each, and for what? Well, in technical terms, they’d be known as a heap of shit. Nine or ten years ago, you’d pay the equivalent of about €1,500 for a pretty good Pentium machine with a reasonable screen, a good amount of memory and a fairly decent-sized hard drive by the standards of the time.
What did Bertie’s e-gobshites buy for €7,000? A machine with a tiny LED screen that didn’t work properly, minimal RAM, no hard drive and a processor, the Motorola MC68000, that was so old Moses had one in his chariot. These days, they’re used in pocket calculators and poker machines.
The government paid fifty million to buy seven thousand personal Space Invader consoles. A Sinclair ZX would be more powerful.
This is what da Bert considered cutting-edge technology, da fool. He was prepared to pay many times the current rate for a machine powered by 20-year-old technology. Jesus Christ, he even had the cheek to call people like Joe McCarthy luddites because they saw what a load of bullshit the system was. McCarthy, you might recall, is the IT consultant who first pointed out that the system was untrustworthy and who had the cheek to demand answers to his questions by using the freedom-of-information mechanism.
McCarthy pointed out that the program had not been tested using the Irish voting rules, that there was no way of knowing if it recorded a person’s vote correctly and that it could easily be tampered with. He wanted answers, but answers there were none. The Dutch company behind the thing, Nedap, refused outright to disclose the details of their coding, even to the people who were paying for it — the Irish government — so there was no way of finding out for sure if it did what it was supposed to do. Undeterred, Bertie’s geniuses went ahead and paid for it anyway.
As McCarthy described it, using Bertie’s poker machine was like shouting your voting choices to a man sitting behind a curtain and hoping he’d write them down properly. It was absolute nonsense. If you bought a bread roll in a supermarket, their electronic till would not only be more powerful than the e-voting machine, but would also issue you with proof of your transaction in the form of a paper receipt. With the Nedap system, you got nothing. Not a sausage. You had no assurance at all that the vote had even been registered.
Press this button and fuck off.
Bertie, a man with no education, saw fit to lecture IT professionals who understood these matters thoroughly, in a classic instance of ignorance thinking it knows best.
It was a joke and it embodied all that was wrong with Ahern’s grossly incompetent style of government. The know-nothing clod was so blinded by glitter and sharp sales talk that he went for what he considered modernity at the expense of democracy. And it’s not just in e-voting that he took this approach, but in every single thing he touched, which is why we and future generations will have to live with the legacy of his gobshitery.
But of course, Ahern wasn’t alone in his arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. Let us not forget his colleague Noel Dempsey, and his equally bumbling glove-puppet Martin Cullen, both of whom had a hand in this embarrassing but revealing episode.
Meanwhile, in a final insult to Nedap, its own country decided to scrap the whole thing because of unreliability. The Dutch decided to use that most detested of instruments from now on: Bertie’s hated peann luaidhe. I didn’t notice him telling the citizens of the Netherlands that they were living in the past, though.
Are there any winners? Of course there are, not least the Fianna Fáil cronies all over the country who rented out lucrative storage space for the poker machines, but of course, the big winners are Nedap, who managed to pawn off a huge heap of junk on gullible Paddies were prepared to pay for something with no guarantee that it worked.
More about e-voting on Bock.
Nedap functional specification.