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Opinion: Sickened with politics and politicians? Then you should vote tomorrow

If you’re feeling disillusioned with politics, you’re not alone – and that’s why you need to make your voice heard.

Rory Hearne

YOU ARE NOT alone in being sickened with politics and politicians in this country and at a European level. In recent decades the proportion of the population that do not vote in elections has risen significantly because they feel that local, national, and European politicians are corrupt and ineffective. They appear as an elite group removed from the harsh reality of people’s lives and, therefore, do not represent ordinary people. There is no point, many people feel, in voting because politicians have little power to change anything, rarely fulfill their election promises once elected and, essentially, are all the same anyway. These are legitimate opinions based on the experience of the Irish public who have witnessed many unfilled promises, even prior to the 2008 crash.

The current government of Fine Gael and Labour promised a ‘political revolution’ and ‘a fair and equal recovery’. However, in most people’s eyes they have continued the cronyist politics of successive Fianna Fail governments that looked after the ‘golden circle’ of elite civil servants, politicians, bankers, developers, and large corporations. This is visible in the failure to provide meaningful accountability in various arms of the state, the recent proposals to subsidise developers that is likely to result in another housing bubble, and the way in which austerity has been inflicted most harshly on the vulnerable – young people, those with disabilities, lone parents, Travellers, and the unemployed.

Despite the claims of ‘recovery’ recent CSO figures show this is a myth for over a quarter of all people in this country (1,230,000 people) who are suffering some form of deprivation. This is over double the figure of 2007 and includes an additional 180,000 children affected. Another promise that the Government has claimed to fulfil is that of removing the burden of the Anglo bank debt. For example, Labour posters around the country claim they have achieved €30bn less bank debt.  The truth is the opposite. The Anglo Bonds were converted into government bonds so we still have to pay the debt (with significant interest) back. €25bn of our total national debt of €176bn is Anglo debt. And €67bn of our national debt is EU/IMF loans. So there is no evidence of any bank debt deal on Anglo or from Europe. And we are now paying over €8bn a year (four times the planned austerity budget in October) in interest on this illegitimate debt.

Why voting on Friday is important

This is the first reason why voting on Friday is important. You can vote for a party or individual who will highlight the truth behind the ‘recovery’ myth and highlight those excluded; those in mortgage arrears, those facing eviction, people struggling to pay for household charges, doctors bills, or even food; those who can’t find work, community development groups affected by funding cuts and those suffering in silence. Your vote can make these issues be the priority in local councils, the Dáil and Europe.

The second reason to vote relates to democracy and protest. The European Commission, German Chancellor Merkel, and the international financial elite have been able to claim that the lack of protest in Ireland shows that the Irish people accept austerity and will continue to pay back the EU and European Central Bank illegitimate debt. This position has been supported by most of the current Irish MEPs who have shown their contempt for democracy by failing to represent the views of the Irish people in stating that this debt is immoral and unjust and should not be paid.

By voting on Friday for candidates who have taken a principled stand on these issues, you can highlight to Europe that Irish people are not passive or silent but are raising our rights to a democratic and social Europe based on justice and fair treatment.

 

The third, and most significant reason to vote on Friday is that the large political parties who have governed since the foundation of this state have failed to create a Republic based on the vision set out in the 1916 Proclamation which states that: “The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally”.

The hope that this can be realised lies in replacing these parties with politicians who actually believe in, and are prepared to stand up for, this vision. You have been told that you are a compliant and conservative people. But many have been protesting this crisis in hidden and grassroots ways from local hospital protests, community marches, boycotting the household charge, blocking water meter installations and voting for the ‘political revolution’  promised in the 2011 general election. Similar movements have taken place across Europe.

The elite state institutions and political parties have failed to listen to the demands for radical change. Therefore, the transformation and realignment of Irish politics that began in 2011 is likely to continue and deepen. You can make a real difference for the ordinary and excluded people of Ireland and Europe and help create a genuine political revolution and a real Republic in this country if you vote on 23 May for candidates willing to challenge the cosy consensus of recovery and austerity.

Dr Rory Hearne is a Lecturer in Geography NUIM, member of Claiming Our Future and former community worker.

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Rory Hearne

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