I’ve been receiving a little bit of shade at home (in jest mostly though), and also indirectly amidst a general sentiment that the fact that those who did not vote in the European and local elections in Ireland on Friday are deemed silenced in terms of rights to engage in political dialogue. I didn’t vote on Friday, not because of voter apathy or confusion but because every damn individual on each ballot paper is a cunt; a status quo upholding, careerist, (often nutjob), self-serving, pat on the back, hoist on the shoulders, happily part of the establishment cunt. I generally feel similarly about non-voters, that those who “choose” not to vote are simply not engaged, apathetic, politics is not on their radar, they feel “above” politics and so on. However my decision not to vote, in these -in my view- nonsense elections, was made from an educated and informed stance. It is almost 20 years since I came of age to vote and it was one of the things I couldn’t wait to do when I turned 18. Even worse I had to wait a year in order to exercise that right in a referendum, and over 2 years to get to vote in a general election. I did not come lightly to this non-voting decision!!
Ever since moving to live in a different county 11 years ago I have had a fundamental problem in engaging with local, European and general election candidate selections because there is a huge disconnect of representation. This is manifested in a general tendency to focus on rural issues more so than emerging community issues and this is reflected in the results with an interchangeable FG/FF stronghold on the area, with, in recent years, maybe a cursory tip of the hat to Labour or SF. The alternatives to the big/known parties are usually fringe candidates who are rarely a good choice, as a protest or otherwise! Regarding emerging community issues, I presumed (incredibly incorrectly and probably quite hopefully) that this area (coastal East Meath) being one of a growing new community due to its Dublin commuter belt status would eventually result in being a sub-suburb of Dublin. That is, insofar as issues that would be to the fore as a sub-suburban area, politically and community wise. Instead we were subsumed into the Louth constituency for the last general election, getting further away from Dublin and more rural; Louth is a pretty big constituency and aside from the 2 big towns of Drogheda and Dundalk it is mostly rural. With regard to local elections it is an even bigger joke, this area remains part of Meath County Council for local election business. 2014 saw the establishment of an electoral ward specifically for the area so the candidate selection was a somewhat different than previous years but no more enticing. When I began living and voting out here the local election thing was pretty sewn-up with some established (hardily supported) local councillors, there was a new Independent pretender, Dominic Hannigan, whom I voted for. Unfortunately he defected to the Labour Party pretty soon after and was fielded as their next (unsuccessful) General election candidate in the area. The next locals were another heady mixture of the old guard and some new pretenders who seemed to emerge from obscurity, needless to say the potential options narrowed further for those of a left leaning disposition. Given the neglected status of coastal East Meath in terms of council business it has always felt futile to bother engaging in local elections but this was the first year in which the futility took hold of me strongly. It may also have been bolstered by the fact that not one of the candidates mounted an effective social media campaign, many had twitter/facebook but even those who did seemed averse to using it to engage with potential voters, bordering on the disdainful, if you ask me. Then again, informed, politically engaged, social media savvy, and younger folk (this lost is neither exhaustive, mutually exclusive nor inclusive nor does it imply interrelation of each) are not reliable enough foils to trust to keep the status quo going. They also cannot necessarily be relied upon to vote SF as a protest because that is what the media are telling you are going to do!! I digress, and I feel vindicated in not voting as I refuse to believe that the council will become more meaningful to residents here after 11 years of virtual neglect; see library closing down circa 2007 and never being replaced despite inclusion in Local area plan(s), myriad planning fiascos, road gritting issues during the big freeze for example.
Add to this the nonsense of the European elections, living here we were previously part of the East constituency but inexplicably became part of Midlands North West for the 2014 elections. There has been considerable “tweaking” of the make-up of the constituencies for Irelands European elections. This culminated in the country being split into 3 constituencies for this round, Midlands North West, South and Dublin to reflect the amount of seats available to Ireland. This just highlights the farcical nature of these elections, if a country is voting candidates into the European parliament why the need for constituencies anyway? It is not and should not be related to local areas, just who are the best candidates to represent Ireland in the European parliament. It truly is baffling; the majority of candidates followed the constituency line by trying to make local Irish concerns issues of note for their desired MEP status, despite its having no bearing whatsoever on what MEPs actually do and can do. All of this shows up politics for what it truly is to many enthralled by it, a sport. Hence, the European elections being recast as locally relevant despite such vast wide-ranging constituencies, particularly Midlands North West. There would not be any sport for these people if the whole country was voting from the same ballot sheet to select MEPs. As it stands, on Tuesday May 27 at 9pmish, the count for the ridiculously huge Midlands North West constituency is still going on, with 3 out of the 4 MEP s having been elected at this stage. This raises another issue, regarding electronic voting but I won’t go in to that now, suffice to say that obviously it would be far more efficient and speedy. But all the political enthusiasts would miss out on their sport and since that is all it is to many involved, meaningless spectacle (jazzed up jobs for the boys) rather than meaningful political development, the sport will win out!! This is why I don’t feel like my voice hasn’t been heard in my not voting decision, this time round! However, I still hold out some vague hope for democracy despite my misgivings, and I will consider my position further when the General Election comes around, be it this year in an emergency capacity, or 2016 when the current government term expires.
To finish, a brief word on the so called meaning of the results of this election. Political analysis and the actual results cite Labour as the big loser and Sinn Fein as the big winner, not escaping from the inevitable fact that FG and FF still gained quite a lot of votes collectively. Sinn Fein’s success is down to some wily capitalising on the obvious countrywide dissatisfaction with the current government. They’ve worked hard on their image, cultivating a populist alternative for previous conservative centre left/ liberal centre right voters. As such they appear to continue with their activism approach in working class areas where they work on the ground to stimulate a working class electorate to come out and vote, and when they do, to vote SF. Meanwhile they have presented themselves as a group of nice looking nice middle class folk to appeal to the previously fearful nice middle class electorate, who realised that FG don’t have their interests at heart despite their fervent support for them in the last General election. Please note that there is no proper leftist movement in Ireland, I do not believe that Sinn Fein are a leftist party no more than I believe Labour are. An alternative government does not exist in the apparent options that we have. Following the resignation of Eamon Gilmore, now former labour party leader, yesterday, I have mused over the fact that Eamon Gilmore was indeed the perfect representation of Labour’s ideological trajectory from the discursively “hard left”, particularly when him and his mates from Democratic Left joined up, to the comfy centre right they inhabit now. Labours problem is that those members who do have a more leftist labour vision are outweighed by the neoliberal status quo upholding majority that have comfortably slithered towards centre right. This is the problem with politics in general, stale, unedifying and going nowhere fast; I firmly believe that the Shinners will do exactly the same thing once they get a taste of the sweet intoxicating nectar of power!!
Right now it is hard to see what left alternative there will be for the next general election and if there even will be one…