How You Vote Doesn’t Matter – what’s important is that you Do….
Anyone who listens to the Opinion Line regularly on Cork’s 96FM will know that regular callers to our show tend to have little regard for politicians. For the most part, they view them as self-serving, untrustworthy, economical with the truth, and above all, detached from reality.
The major parties are held in particular contempt by a sizeable proportion of my listeners. They hate Fine Gael because of the homeless crisis, the state of the Health Service and the number of people struggling to make ends meet in an economy they are told “is now thriving again, after ten hard years”. They hate Fianna Fáil for the confidence and supply deal that keeps FG in power and they hold Labour in utter contempt for the austerity and the cuts in their living standards between 2011 and 2016.
My listeners have an interesting take on Sinn Fein. They are interested in how the party views the economy, public services, taxing the super-rich and focussing on a more socialist economic model, but they still have a level of suspicion – not for the local gumshoe, the City or County Councillor, but for those at the upper echelons of the party – whom they still see as having a whiff of cordite, and links to far darker times in our recent history.
The smaller, more “hard left” parties – if you’ll allow the term – have all the patter, all the rhetoric and all the right things to say, in the eyes of many listeners. Whether anyone really takes them seriously, however, when they tell us how easy it really is to fix problems that have dogged us for decades, is anyones guess. I should also mention Independents, of course. While listeners like the fact that Cllr So&So or Deputy Joe Bloggs isn’t tied to a party mantra, they also recognise that some of them are probably only independent because no party is crazy enough to let them join!
Politicians reading this are probably seething with rage at my flippancy, but I’m just reflecting what I see are the genuine opinions of my regular callers, and those who contact our show to tell me a story about their lives, their sick children or their battle to secure some service or other. The harsh reality of modern political life is that for the most part, the mere fact that you ever wanted to be a politician in the first place, draws on you suspicion and disapproval, disdain and doubt about your bona fides.
Personally, and this is a view based on many years covering their work at both local and national level, at Council, in the Dáil and the Seanad, and through a number of brief visits to the European Parliament, I have formed, and I hold fast to the view that the overwhelming majority of our public representatives are decent, hardworking, fundamentally honest people, who genuinely want to represent their locality, their town or their country to the very best of their ability. Sadly, many of them realise (and so do we) after they get elected, that talking the talk and walking the walk are different beasts.
However annoying that might be, we should never lose sight of the reminder it gives us about our country, and the indelible fact that we live in a democracy, where we all can (if we have the means and the support) put ourselves before the people and seek their vote. That is something precious, something special and something we should never take lightly. It’s a right and a privilege that’s not enjoyed by tens of millions of people around the World. People died for it, and it is those great patriots, our forefathers, that gave us the right to take peann luaidhe sa lámh, and to make our scratch today.
I will vote today. I cannot countenance the prospect of not voting, I consider it my duty as a citizen. The fact that the ballot paper I receive has upon it some insufferable fools, some hopeless cases, some loudmouthed upstarts and the people I will actually vote for, is irrelevant. I have my vote and I will use it. I would ask you to do the same. You might only see one name or one face that you respect – and that’s just fine too, but please don’t pass up this most wonderful privilege – the right to vote. When I am taking calls about the results, I’ll be asking people “did you vote?” ,, and if they didn’t they had better have a good reason as to why! There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “elections are won by those who turn up”..
By the time you read this, it may all be over. You may be listening to figures, results and analysis, and wondering, “how did that shugawhelpus get elected?” .,. or “how did that guy miss out?”.. or “God Almighty, another five years of that fool!”… but if you didn’t vote, you have no skin in the game, and where’s the fun in that!