Editorial: Vote for whoever you like – but go out and vote
Published 23/05/2014 | 02:30
It is a sad reflection on us as a people that by the time the polling booths close at 10 o'clock tonight, up to half the nation may not have bothered to vote. This, quite frankly, is a deep insult to earlier generations who risked much – even life and limb – to ensure Irish people could have maximum control over our own affairs. But it is also something which inflicts a deep wound on the wider national community. We make no apology for stating very emphatically that every person entitled to vote today should get out and do so. Bad politicians are often effectively elected by the large numbers of people who do not bother to vote.
Just a few short weeks ago we were reminded of the emotive scenes precisely 20 years ago when black South Africans queued for hours in the dark, the rain and the cold to vote in the first ever open democratic elections. The dignity and honesty of these newly enfranchised citizens touched hearts and minds across the globe. It caused many thinking people to go back to first principles and reflect again on the foundations of democracy.
Ironically, people who do not vote are sometimes the ones who complain loudest about the flaws in the ways in which we order our own affairs. They should reflect that if they cannot be bothered to go and participate in our democracy their complaints really smack of hypocrisy. The "couldn't-be-bothered brigade" should also reflect on a more simple reality. Politicians are often extremely pragmatic people and they regularly refer to a thing called the "marked register", which they are entitled to access.
This shows who voted and who did not at each local polling booth. In practice, areas in which people do not bother voting tend to get less and less attention. These areas risk losing funding and other supports.
But if you cannot find somebody to vote for in today's vast lists on the ballot papers, then choose somebody to vote against. Start by giving him or her your last preference and go on working through the voting paper in reverse order. It's called democracy and it is very far from perfect. But so far at least, it is the best system we have.
Now go out and vote today and encourage as many others as you can around you to do likewise.
Shatter's grand gesture, using taxpayers' money
All credit to the Jack and Jill Foundation and the great work it does. Our congratulations to the principals Jonathan Irwin and his wife senator Mary Ann O'Brien. We are confident the €70,000 "gifted" by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter will be put to good use.
But that does not allow us to overlook some basic facts about Mr Shatter's behaviour in the matter of the €70,000 in severance pay to which he was entitled after three years as a cabinet minister. This entitlement was at best "technical". There would be no such entitlement had an implementation order been signed in good time to give effect to a law put on the statute book by Mr Shatter and his colleagues. The former minister has explained the timing of his announcement yesterday as caused by his need to reflect and decide what to do about a surprise letter telling him he was entitled to this severance money. His Fine Gael and Labour government colleagues are less pleased by his taking two days to publicise his decision in the teeth of a difficult election campaign.
Opposition TDs have good grounds to argue that this grand gesture to vulnerable sick children does not sit easily beside other government decisions. They point to the many harsh developments, to which Mr Shatter as minister was party, like the cutting of discretionary medical cards to other profoundly sick and vulnerable people. Ultimately, Mr Shatter has shown himself to be extremely generous – with taxpayers' money. Just a fortnight after he was first appointed to Government, he was emphatically insistent that there would be no more severance pay for government ministers. A grand gesture – be it ever so beneficial to a deserving charity – cannot disguise these simple facts.