Saturday 1 October 2016

Putting your vote to good use is paramount

Published 26/02/2016 | 02:30

'However uninspiring the period preceding today's election may have been, the right to vote and the necessity of putting it to good use is still paramount. Suffice to say, it is in your own best interest to make the effort to cast your ballot some time between 7am and 10pm today'. Photo: Andrew Winning/Reuters
'However uninspiring the period preceding today's election may have been, the right to vote and the necessity of putting it to good use is still paramount. Suffice to say, it is in your own best interest to make the effort to cast your ballot some time between 7am and 10pm today'. Photo: Andrew Winning/Reuters

People can forgive dullness in an individual, but when it becomes contagious and starts infecting others, there is generally a sharp response. So after a three-week, flatlining election campaign that began tediously and never rose above the bland, a huge sense of relief comes with the arrival of polling day.

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However uninspiring the period preceding today's election may have been, the right to vote and the necessity of putting it to good use is still paramount. Suffice to say, it is in your own best interest to make the effort to cast your ballot some time between 7am and 10pm today.

But there are other, more edifying, 'bigger picture' reasons why one ought to go out and vote today.

Seven out of 10 people turned out to vote in the February 2011 general election, in an Ireland that was economically bankrupt, and where people's morale was dangerously low.

Just weeks earlier, the sacrifices of previous generations were set at nought as the infamous EU-IMF-ECB Troika landed on our shores to take control of our national finances.

It was a very grim time indeed. But fear and frustration drove people to engage with our politics and a transformational result was delivered at the polls.

The struggle to get our books in shape, to get people back to work and repair the broken banks has been difficult.

It has taken a huge toll on the public - emotionally, physically and financially. Yet there are few who would not agree that, from where we were four or five years ago, we have completed a historically challenging journey.

The outcome of the last election was wrongly billed as a 'political revolution'. It was really more of a comprehensive changing of the guard, where Fianna Fáil and their coalition allies were replaced by a resurgent Fine Gael and Labour Party, whose combined strength formed the largest majority in the history of the State.

Unsurprisingly, the policies pursued during the early part of this outgoing Coalition's term were extremely harsh. And for many people the benefits of the economic progress have yet to be felt.

Internationally, there may be more buffeting on the way, particularly with the Brexit referendum, so we should be grateful that some kind of a harbour from the harsh economic cross currents has been set in place.

But in acknowledging the sacrifices made and the great frustrations that have built up, we must counsel against wasting a vote in anger without thinking about the outcome.

Who would have predicted then that part of the current campaign debate would feature disputes over deciding whether to direct additional funds to spending or tax cuts?

The priority now, whoever is returned, must be to manage the economy better and place emphasis on key services such as housing and health to produce a more humane society.

In this election, new parties are attracting attention, as are Independents. And Fianna Fáil, the national political pariahs of 2011, may recapture considerable lost ground. Fine Gael and Labour expect losses today in terms of vote-share and seats. The only question is the extent of these losses.

The view on Sinn Féin must be framed by the character of that party's leader.

Gerry Adams has always told a lie. He has lied about being an IRA commander, responsible for car bomb attacks, proxy bombs and doorstep assassinations.

You have to ask what else is he lying about, past and future?

This is a time when every citizen has a direct voice in shaping whatever political changes may happen.

Nobody voting today will be just making up the numbers.

Regardless of your persuasion or inclination, please exercise your democratic right to vote today.

Irish Independent

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