I have always voted, and I’ve always argued that people should vote. The truth is, voting does matter and does shape the society we live in, and under our electoral system, a relatively small number of votes does change the result.
Having said all that, I cannot really find a good reason to vote in an Irish general election. There is an historical argument, that people died for our right to vote, and I should honour their sacrifice. There is a global argument, that across the world, millions go without the choice I have. These are true: But I would be making as much of a symbolic gesture by making a donation to the National Museum or Freedom House as I would by voting to elect the next Dail.
The reality is that electing either Fianna Fail, or a Fine Gael/Labour coalition brings a level of change that would be unnoticeable to people who actually look for it. FF do not believe in political change or reform, and FG and Labour say they do, but cannot point to anything which radically improves my say as a citizen, my ability to change things. Economically, they will be the same. FG and Labour refuse to be clear as to the big things. Yes, both have published detailed documents, but when you read them, neither addresses the big issue: How do you promise to reverse the billions of euro in cutbacks that you have opposed without raising taxes on PAYE workers? The truth is, they won’t. The cutbacks will stand, and Labour in particular will be riven with bitterness as its poll ratings fall in government on the back of broken aspirations. FG will have yet another “Forrest Gump” moment of delight at being in a wonderful place despite themselves.
The Greens, ironically, offer the one chink of light. They are delivering on things like an elected mayor and civil partnership, but they don’t seem to have grasped that without pushing through electoral reform, they are doomed, because they don’t have to win a noble 5%. They have to win 15% in a constituency, one in six voters, and that ain’t going to happen, except maybe in Dublin North, and that’s only because Trevor will be elected as Trevor and despite being Green.
But here’s the positive bit about not voting: We’re not living in Chile or Nicaragua where one side of the ballot can sometimes hold monsters. Six months after the election, regardless of who wins, things will be pretty much the way they were, and the secret police won’t be knocking down our door, so I suppose we should be grateful for that.