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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

'When political parties backtrack on promises on who they would go into power with, I feel lied to'

I have found it disheartening the way our major political parties have once again belittled their voting public, writes Rob McDonnell.

Rob McDonnell

THERE’S AN UNRELENTING blame-game in Irish politics, and at no time is it more apparent than in the run-up to a general election.

I think a certain amount of that is unavoidable – to be fair to the varied political blocs, there certainly are legacy issues going back to the beginning of a Dáil term, or longer, on which they vehemently disagree. That much is understandable: the voting public is a glass-half-empty type of political animal, and parties of all persuasions are generally keen to capitalise on that in the interest of seat procurement.

Ruling out coalitions 

Anyone who has been listening to the discourse of the previous few weeks will be well aware that our political leaders lined up en masse to rule out any sort of power-sharing coalition with, barring an occasional nod to the ‘independent rise’, any other political party or group.

I have no problem with this per se: I believe fundamentally that individuals are entitled to their views, political or otherwise; indeed that these individuals are entitled to agglomerate into groups of like mind forms the very backbone of our system of government in this country.

What I do have a problem with, however, is deception. Fundamentally, I have a problem with being told, assured and promised that Party X will under no circumstances entertain the notion of agreement of any level of formality with Party Y (it won’t have escaped the notice of many of you that the names of both Party X and Y to which I allude in particular in fact begin with the letter F, although they’re not on their own in this particular crime).

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I have a problem with it for a few of reasons.

First: because who exactly do they think they are to prehumously draw such lines. Surely in the course of democracy there is no extent whatever to which a small group of individuals are entitled to devalue the very vote of the mob that elects them?

Is it not inherent in the very definition of democracy that even if the lay of the political landscape when all is said and done is somewhat distasteful to old parish-pump rivals, that they should be compelled to, without putting too fine a point on it, suck it up?

Aligning their disdain for one another 

For two such extraordinarily analogous groups, why Party X and Party Y vociferously ruled out any variety of post-election association is a mystery; other than to align their disdain for each other, ad infinitum, to a Civil War tiff that any self respecting modern democracy should have long forgotten about.

In any case, this matters because it might very well impact the way someone might vote.

Let’s say hypothetically I have always supported Party X but the idea of voting Party Y is abhorrent to me: as it stands I will happily vote for a representative of Party X blissfully in the knowledge that they won’t be associating themselves in any guise with the dreaded Party Y. Except in all likelihood, that’s exactly what they’ll be doing. As per this example, this is the most deceptive type of pre-election waffle.

Which brings me to my next point.

Second: because there’s no truth in it, and they know there’s no truth in it. I have found it disheartening the way our major political parties have once again belittled their voting public. It occasionally astonishes me how very audacious large political parties can be: many are a far cry from the reality that the public they try to manipulate are the very people they are in fact elected to represent.

Cloak and dagger politics 

I’ll say it again: Represent. By my judgement, representation and old-school cloak and dagger politics are incompatible. Yes, I am willing to accept that political parties naturally have an overwhelming preference to govern as the only stakeholder in a majority government, but the plurality of the current political landscape just doesn’t allow for it.

Further, the idea that a party might publicly incline towards any particular other party if in need of a coalition partner causes no offence to me.

The key issue, the way I see it is this: if an occasion that there is a large mandate by way of public vote for two traditionally homogenous (although we’d all love to know why) parties arises, it is the responsibility of these parties to respect the mandate the electorate have given them and to do their absolute best to govern stably. It is also a responsibility of theirs not to rule out such an arrangement in the interest of vote acquisition unless they intend to adhere to such a ruling absolutely.

How very unfair to the mob that votes you in to insist on eating your cake and having it. That is, of course, unless there are two pastry forks.

Rob is a final year geography student at Trinity College, Dublin. 

Liveblog: 148 down, 10 to go as recounts get under way today>

Read: Shatter alleges ‘unnecessary interference’ by Fine Gael in managing vote>

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