It’s been an interesting few weeks, and now this phase of our political history is coming to a close as the nation prepares to go to the polls. The parties will observe a moratorium on media activity from two o’clock today, and many would say it’s not before time.
I started this blog with the intention of analysing some of the maelstrom of political communications activity and on the whole, having watched countless hours of TV and read reams of articles, it has been amateurish – with very few exceptions.
No party has managed to differentiate itself, and in many cases the contenders have been caught out and forced to climb down on their various policies. Broadcast media have been particularly good on this front, with the peerless Vincent Browne fighting the good fight until the bitter end.
Most of the strategies, from the hide-and-seek champion of Mayo and the Labour ads in the papers to the hysterical and aggressive amnesia of the outgoing Minister for Historical Revision Michael Martin, have been negative.
The level of political skill displayed has barely risen above basic, as elementary tactics were deployed on complex issues, and were subsequently- and rightly – found out. The Irish electorate is a lot more literate than the politicians would have you believe.
We are more than capable of understanding the big issues, but instead they tell us they have a five-point plan or that they found a €5 billion hole and expect us to accept it.
This is lamentable, given Ireland’s desperate need of strong and courageous leadership. Only some of the Independents, the Greens and to a lesser extent Sinn Féin have managed to portray themselves in a positive light. In the case of Sinn Féin it is apparent that the southern electorate will need a lot more time before the sins of the past can be fully forgiven.
What is most striking is the lack of minority representation in the political discourse. Not only were women grossly underrepresented on the various political debates, I cannot recall seeing a single “foreign national” being asked for their view or interviewed as a candidate. Add to this the way the gay community have been kicked about from pillar to post (especially by the ludicrous Lucinda Creighton and her friends in Fine Gael) and it doesn’t add up to much in the way of diversity.
But before the page is turned, let’s just sum up what it is that you will be voting for when you pull the curtain behind you in the polling booth tomorrow. Based on what has been said and written over the last few weeks, it’s a very scary prospect indeed.
If the opinion polls are to be believed, tomorrow is the day that democracy destroys Ireland for a couple of generations. Whichever of the main parties ends up leading the next government, the Irish people will have given them a mandate to accept the debts of rogue traders and wide-boy bankers as their own.
This is important, because it immediately neuters our ability to negotiate our way out of the current mess we are in with our European neighbours. Whatever we try to do to get the economy back on track, our friends in the Eurozone will point to our votes and say “but your people agreed”.
All the major parties (FG, FF, Labour) now accept the banking debts as ours, and if the expected 40% of voters weigh in behind Fine Gael, they will be partying on the streets of Frankfurt. A five-year party is about to start for them, complete with new and improved bonuses for those who destroyed our country, and tomorrow we will agree to foot the bill. By voting for Fine Gael, Labour or Fianna Fail tomorrow, that is essentially what we are saying.
The more people that vote for Fine Gael, the more likely it is that our next Taoiseach will be a glorified county councillor from Mayo who thinks it’s acceptable to tell nigger jokes in public. That alone should be enough to make voters run for the hills- until you look across the House and see the alternatives.
We are also accepting that Ireland is to remain a society of haves and have-nots. Those who have resources- cash, credit, access to political power – will continue to ensure that only the weakest in society – the old, the sick, the children – will be called on to pay the debts foisted upon them. They were the ones who benefitted the least from the property boom, but they will now be asked to foot the bill.
Don’t be put off by Mícheál Martin’s spoofery that social welfare payments went up by 130% during his time in office. That essentially means that someone getting €100 previously now gets €230 – not exactly millions, as Michael would have you believe.
His laughable assertion that cancer sufferers now live longer than previously is also a bitter pill, as he has consigned most of them to a life of poverty anyway. And besides, who will take care of them when their children move to Australia and England in search of work?
But what we are really doing tomorrow is voting to extend the recession indefinitely. A quick calculation on a beer mat (should be easy enough, as most now can’t afford a pint to put on it) shows that Ireland cannot meet it’s debts. It’s impossible. And the more people that move away, the more everything goes down, from the tax take to the price of housing to domestic demand.
If the situation seems hopeless, it isn’t. Tomorrow is a chance for the Irish people to send a message to the rest of the world that the party isn’t starting- it’s well and truly over, and that far from footing the entire bill we now expect those who feasted on our largesse to help clear up the mess.
It’s a chance to show the rest of the world that we have learned the lessons of the past- we are not going to abandon our children and our old people to poverty and misery, just because others tell us it’s in our best interests to do so.
It’s a chance to show the rest of the world that, caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea, we choose to jump. We have dealt with the Devil for too long, and the deep blue sea holds no fear for us anymore.
It doesn’t matter how you vote, but make sure you do. And if the outcome is not to your liking, feel free to put yourself forward and let others vote for you and your ideas the next time the nation goes to the polls, because this is how democracy- as practiced in normal countries- actually works best.
For though our democracy will destroy us for the foreseeable future tomorrow, ultimately it will save us in the end. The Irish are a fundamentally decent, caring people and it is only when we stop listening to these instincts – as we did during the Celtic Tiger years – that things go so horribly wrong.