Sunday 25 September 2016

Five things that every citizen should think about before they vote

Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30

Ireland prepares for voting as polls open today at 7am. Photos: Andrew Winning/Reuters
Ireland prepares for voting as polls open today at 7am. Photos: Andrew Winning/Reuters

The past three weeks of campaigning have done little to engage a sceptical Irish public about politics.

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But do not let that defeat you. Hang in for a minute and think about this one.

There are only a few things worth pondering which could be summarised in five key points before you decide about voting tomorrow.

1 Please go out and vote. Polls are open between 7am and 10pm. Depending on where you live, it can very often be done relatively quickly. It's a once-in-five-years job for a citizen. The old adage: "Don't vote - it only encourages them" is dangerously specious. Reality is that places where people do not turn out and vote quickly become marginalised.

We understand feelings of alienation and dislocation. But if you don't want to vote for someone - surely, there's someone you can find you want to vote against. If you don't vote you are less than well placed to quibble about the election outcome and the ensuing events over the coming government term.

2 Do not be fazed by the masses of campaign detail and sometimes complex and turgid arguments which emerged in the campaign. We all lead busy lives and you're already forgiven if you haven't entirely clocked the talk about "moving the USC thresholds" and other tiresome jargon like "fiscal space".

You are entitled to use your own judgement as a political consumer and act on your own instincts. In the end of the end we find that politics is a visceral business. That's posh for saying voting is often a "gut decision". Just imagine you're buying a new television, computer or other gizmo. There's only so much technical swotting you can do. Then you have to make a choice.

3 If you are a long-time committed supporter of a party, or politician, you may only be reading this to find fault. But you're welcome just the same. But even if you tend towards the apolitical, it's still worth taking a few seconds to ponder voting choices tomorrow. In all elections, it's worth going beyond your number one and two. This election is likely to be quite tight. Your number four vote could well be significant in shaping our nation's future. Give it a few minutes in the privacy of the ballot box to consider the options.

For those with less-committed views, or even the dyed in the wool political soldiers, it is worth thinking about counting the candidates and working upwards.

With a dozen on the ballot, you can start with your most disliked or distrusted at number 12.

4 It's right to fear political instability. But do not confuse it with uncertainty. A clear-cut result would result in a quick government being selected and installed. It is the job of the citizen to factor on the need to pick a government in this exercise tomorrow.

But every citizen is entitled to make choices based on the local and the personal. It has been thus with politics since the times of the ancient Greeks, who elaborated and honed the concept of democracy. And every voter can only make choices based on what is before them on their constituency ballot paper. Democracy is ultimately self-correcting over time. It's your day - your choice.

5 YOU can enjoy the entire process. Admittedly, this election was lacklustre on its better days. But the best is probably yet to come in the count starting at 9am on Saturday. There is a certain Eurovision Song Contest analogy here. Often the songs are poor and bordering on the toneless. But the actual voting counting process can be addictive. Politics is not just for political anoraks.

If you're mildly curious or thinking about delving a little further in: take heart! A good General Election, and the ensuing count is on a par with a good Munster hurling final - or a well-matched Ireland versus England rugby international. And here's a bonus - you can flick from one to the other on Saturday. Enjoy! But none of this would happen without voters. So go and vote.

Irish Independent

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