What to expect when working as a runner at an election count centre

Newstalk Team
Newstalk Team: L-R Vincent Wall, Newstalk Reporter, Me, Rebekah Connolly, Newstalk Runner & Alan Caulfield, Newstalk Reporter

If it’s excitement-by-the-second you’re after, then a count centre isn’t for you. The count centre is more an excitement-every-few-hours kind of place.

Newstalk Team
Newstalk Team: L-R Vincent Wall; Newstalk Reporter, Rachel Carey; Newstalk Runner, Rebekah Connolly; Newstalk Runner & Alan Caulfield, Newstalk Reporter (Photo Credit Rachel Darcy)

When I arrived at Citywest count centre at 8am for the Dublin Mid West count I was unsure of what to expect. I had never been to an election count before and working as a runner is one of the most ambiguous job titles you can be given.

The action seemed to happen is stages, with very long gaps where you are unsure of what to do in between. The tallies, the first count and the following media scrum were the most exciting parts of the day.

Running to pull elected politicians out of the crowd of journalists and emotional friends and family was an experience in itself, a difficult one. During the count announcement, when someone is due to be deemed elected, you’re physically caught up in the candidate’s team who are celebrating and hoisting their candidate into the air. As soon as they are back on the ground and they’ve hugged and kissed all team members it was tough to grab them and escort them to your reporter, hot on your tail is RTE who are looking to do the same thing.

 

Newstalk interview Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald TD speaking to Newstalk reporter Vincent Wall ( Photo Credit Rachel Carey )

After that it’s a waiting game. Multiple counts could be announced and no one could be elected. Thankfully the Ireland rugby match took place in between counts so that kept us entertained.

Altogether I felt the process was slow but interesting. Out of four seats two were filled following the first count around 4pm. The next two seats weren’t filled until just after midnight.

My lasting memory will be how long the day was; I arrived home tired and slightly delirious just after 1am having woken up at 6.30am the previous morning. But I found I couldn’t go to sleep. I was gripped by the whole election process and had to stay up until my neighbouring constituency had been sorted. Luckily for me I gave up and succumbed to sleep because Dublin South Central count went on until Tuesday.

If I was working as a runner again, I would be more ready for what in entails following my experience on Saturday.

Eoin O Broin celebrates
Eoin O Broin TD celebrates topping the tally count ( Photo credit Rachel Carey )

If you’re ever working as a runner at an election count here are some tips on what to do on the big day:

  1. Wrap up warm

The conference centre in Citywest was freezing. At one point journalists from The Irish Times went into the hotel part of the complex to get some blankets.  Unfortunately we didn’t think of that and relied heavily on hugging cups of tea to keep us warm.

  1. Stock up on supplies before you leave the house

Depending on where your count centre is based, food may be an issue. So whether it’s some ham sandwiches you packed in a lunchbox the night before or, like me, a box of Nature Valley bars you threw into your bag before you ran out the door they will become vital. Another runner for Newstalk managed to wrangle a free hot dinner, we can’t all be so lucky.

  1. Maintain caffeine intake throughout the day

Whether you’re a big coffee drinker or not once the tallies start coming in you’ll need one if not more. You’ll be running around the count centre so much you will need that extra kick. The coffee kiosk in Citywest was a blessing.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go and talk to politicians

It can seem a bit daunting but go up and introduce yourself; it may help you later on when you’re trying to pull them for an interview. If an aid pushes you to one side, like what happened with me, don’t give up. If they have not yet arrived talk to their team, they will be able to let you know when they’re due at the count. They might even give you some inside information, did you know AAA-PBP candidate Gino Kenny walked to the Citywest conference centre from Lucan.

With the current political situation these tips may come in handy sooner rather than later.