The Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, has strongly defended the new electronic voting system.

The system is to be used nationwide for the first time in next June's local and European elections.

Mr Cullen told the Dáil it was 'one of the most excellent systems available', and that all the questions raised by critics had been answered. He said people either accepted it, or questioned all computer systems in use throughout the world.

The minister was responding to Fine Gael's Bernard Allen who asked how he could stand over introducing the system without the support of all parties in the House; without the involvement of the Electoral Commission in its introduction; and without assurances on the security of the system.

When Deputy Allen asked about the PR contract for promoting the system being awarded to a company headed up by 'buddies' of Fianna Fáil, the minister called on him to withdraw his implication, which he said impugned people who were not in the House to defend themselves.

A national information campaign on the system is to be launched tomorrow morning.