Thursday 23 October 2014

Dr Theresa Reidy: Voters just not interested in political reform

Published 05/10/2013 | 15:25

GO away with your political reform, citizens are just not interested.

The result from the referendum appears to be heading towards a No, itself a surprise result. Opinion polls were predicting a comfortable victory but voters were not persuaded.  There is a lot of discussion about confusion among voters but it looks like there will be a different result in the two polls, the Court of Appeal will pass and the Seanad proposal will probably fail. Voters were not as confused as we are being told.

The Government's reform agenda is in disarray, the OI referendum was defeated in 2011 and it looks like the Seanad will go the same way. Citizens have rejected central parts of the government's reform plans.

They are just not persuaded. Probably as likely, citizens do not know what the full plans are. There is considerable distrust of politicians and trust in our political institutions has fallen sharply. The picture today, suggests that voters do not trust their government enough to take a leap of faith with their political institutions.

Plans to reform the Dáil were rushed and incomplete, published just a few weeks before the referendum and the rest of the reform agenda is hazy, getting only an occasional mention in public debates. There was no sense of where Seanad abolition fitted into the overall five year plan of political reform.

Turnout was low,voters are just not interested in reform and the government campaign was weak. Voters see little connection between political reform and their daily lives.  Reports from politicians who did some canvassing tell us, voters were more interested in discussing social welfare payments, the property tax and medical cards. Political reform is abstract and the Seanad debate often seemed like a row between Leinster House and academics from their Ivory Towers. Most voters are uninterested and those that turned out were not persuaded by arguments coming from a majority of their public representatives on the Yes side. Parties on the No side may claim a victory but it is much more likely that the message coming for the electorate is, 'a pox on all your houses'.

Counting of votes in the referendums on the future of the Seanad and the establishment of a new Court of Appeal is under way at the RDS in Dublin
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin at the Dublin Castle count centre
Counting of votes in the referendums on the future of the Seanad and the establishment of a new Court of Appeal at the RDS

* Dr Theresa Reidy is a lecturer in government at University College Cork.

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