Vote for Me! I live down the road!

As you may or may not be aware (and should you be a European, I sincerely hope it is the former), next month sees the European elections. Here in Ireland, we also have local elections on and due to the rather tumultuous political events of recent times, the local candidates are hard at work begging us all for our votes.

Ireland uses the enormously confusing preference voting system which involves picking from the list of candidates in order of preference. As I understand it, although don’t quote me on this one, the ballots are gone through awarding the number one votes to each candidate. The process is repeated awarding the number two, then the number three and so on. When a candidate has amassed a required number of votes, they are in. This counting continues until the correct number of candidates has been reached.
This system requires a certain amount of tactical canvassing by the candidates. There may be up to four candidates running from a single political party so they have to let you know which order to vote for them in. It is all most mystifying.

As it happens, the voting system is not even the most mystifying thing about it. It is the candidates themselves.
In Ireland there are two main political parties, Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael. One is descended from De Valera (thought we should all live in hedges and speak Gaelic) and the other from Michael Collins (keen on hedges, a little more flexible about the Gaelic). I still have no idea which is which.
Naturally, I am keen to rectify this gap in my knowledge so when Candidates called round to find out who we would vote for, I dispatched He Who Knows Everything to the front door to speak with them. I would have gone myself but, for complex reasons I won’t go into here, I was wearing a shirt covered in egg and didn’t feel they would take me seriously. HWKE was far more appropriately dressed: An inside out vest half tucked into visible underwear. He’s been taking style tips from Pat the Farmer.

HWKE explained he was foreign and had no clue what the parties stood for or who he should vote for. Rather than explaining which party he was from, what he stood for and what he was going to do should he be elected, the candidate explained he came from down the road and had been elected on previous occasions. When he found out we had come here from Wales, he told us his son took part in the ploughing championships in Pembroke. Then he told us that in the 70’s, he went to Wales and got to shake hands with the Queen.
About an hour later, the candidate from the other main party called around. He hadn’t been to Wales or shaken hands with the Queen but he came from down the road in the other direction and had been elected before as well.

I read carefully through the promotional leaflets both candidates had left. One contained no policies at all but did mention all the years in which the guy had been elected; the other contained a list of when the bloke had been elected and mentioned how fond he was of sport.

Call me an idealistic fool if you will, but I had rather hoped for candidates who would have some kind of plan for the future. I fear it is just not meant to be.
I did have huge sympathies for the candidates of the moment. That was until the doorbell rang halfway through writing this and I answered it (in an egg free shirt) to find my local Sinn Fein man, John Dwyer, asking me for my vote. I told him that I had ruined my paper last time around due to none of the candidates having any policies at all. I explained that I don’t care that candidates come from down the road. I asked him what he planned to do on a local level. I asked him about what he felt he could do for New Ross and told him I felt that there was a great deal which could be done locally for tourism (citing the Ros tapestry project as a hugely wasted opportunity for the town and saying “I thought it was an emigrant ship, not a famine ship” about the Dunbrody). The poor man couldn’t wait to get away. Maybe he was just busting for a wee.

John Dwyer is a great turn in the local paper providing many amusing sound bites at council meetings. My opinion of him, based on what I have read of his activities, is that he is a genuine worker for the local people who have problems with local issues. I do feel that sometimes he makes too much fuss over petty issues which don’t matter to the majority of us. While they may matter to the people he is working on behalf of, I personally would prefer to see somebody who is moving things forward instead of getting bogged down about the order of the council minutes. He may consider it a bonus to be a lone voice standing up to the big guns at the council meetings, I say it doesn’t get anything done. He may give me a confidential look and tell me that he isn’t paranoid when he says the reduced four seat town council is designed for two members of each of the main parties, it isn’t going to make me vote for him. Push forward with fresh ideas. Not just you John Dwyer, everybody.

The trouble I had is that he seemed unable to tell me of anything specific he had achieved. It is all very well saying “Oh yes, we created 5000 jobs, some in cottage industries”, but I want to hear “We did this and this other thing is what we want to do and this is how we are going to do it”.
When I talked about the wasted opportunity that is the Ros tapestry (longest tapestry in the world, or at least it will be) and mentioned how poor the website was, he mentioned the funding it had been given and how supportive he had been to the project. I said you could throw money at anything you liked, it didn’t help. He also mentioned how he had long conversations with the Countess (the leading force behind the project) on the matter. I think I may have supposed to have been impressed.
He talked about schools for a while. I think he assumed that because I am female, I must have children. It would have been much better to ask me what issues are important to me. In case you are wondering it is mental health services, job creation, teaching Irish people to stop being so racist and the queue outside the post office. Start small and world domination can be achieved in no time.

It is important to stress that John Dwyer is by no means unique. This is exactly what all of the politicians around here seem to be like. They hand over the policy free leaflet and run away. They don’t want to talk because they don’t have any answers.
I am a wavering voter. How can I vote sensibly if the best options I am given are “Vote for me because they don’t want me in power” or “Vote for me, I’m from down the road”?
I’m not an idiot. I understand the economic situation. I know it is hard and that any candidates with promises of funds for hospitals or improvements in education are not going to come good.
There aren’t any answers but I know that I would definitely vote for a candidate who could at least tell me what the questions were.

Either that or Alan Kelly:


sarah said...

kelly kelly <3 <3 ahahahaaa.

oh my hat i love electoral campaigns, they are such a load of nonsense. dressing up wolves as lambs in bows. i always feel that campaigners think that the campaign is the hard job and once they win, their ride will be easy. and thus they throw themselves into the campaign with careless abandon. prats :)