Obviously not you. Well, not if you are one of the vast majority who didn’t vote in the last election. Let us look at just a few of the reasons why you might decide to reconsider, this time around. Think about the one and a half million adults in Ireland who have less than €25 a week disposable income, or the 400,000 Irish children who go to bed hungry and what of the government which supposedly represents you and me, denying healthcare to severely ill people or the fact that we are potentially looking at 20 years of economic stagnation due to the odious debt imposed upon us. Not forgetting the 400,000 (mostly young) people who have emigrated and the 400,000 people who are still at home, but have no jobs.
Those few facts above are enough to put anybody off politics, elections, or voting but the sad reality is that they are the results of actions or inaction’s of the people that were elected to represent us. Maybe it would all be different, but for the recklessness (profiteering) of the banks and the failure to regulate them. But that is history, isn’t it? Well, actually no, it’s not history and you, whether you are unemployed or not, will pay and if you don’t pay, well your children will. This is fact.
It is said that “bad governments get elected when good people don’t vote” and while it is a clever phrase, it is also 100 percent correct. You see, the way our so-called democracy works is that the majority of elected representatives, supposedly representing the majority of citizens, get to dictate the direction and policies of Parliament, whether that is in Dublin or in Strasbourg. And while this is a nice theory, there is one rather large fly in the ointment. Namely, that all the Parliament seats are filled regardless of how many people actually vote. In fact, the actual amount of votes needed to be elected is only decided after all the actual votes cast, are counted.
By way of example, let’s pretend that there are exactly 1,000,000 people who have a vote and there are 100 seats to be filled in Parliament. In Ireland, which is a representative democracy, each member elected would in theory, represent the views of 10,000 people (1,000,000 votes ÷ 100 Seats), that is, if every single person cast their vote. After the election, let’s say that just over half of the newly elected Parliamentarians get together and then agree how the country will be run.
This is what we call a majority government and in a democracy, the majority of voters now have their views represented while still respecting the rights of the minority. This is known as a Democratic (majority rule) Republic (protecting the minority) and this is the system of government that we use in Ireland.
While this system of governance is reasonable and preferable to many alternatives such as communism or an outright dictatorship, it does have one very major flaw and that is, what happens when people don’t vote? In the previous example above, over half of all the voters get representation that they want which is fair enough. However, let’s now consider what happens when, like in the last EU election, only four out of ten people decide to vote, in some parts of the country.
When only four out of ten people bother to vote, each newly elected person now only represents the wishes and desires of 4000 people. Like the previous example, say just over half of the one hundred newly appointed parliamentarians get together to take control of the parliament by forming a ‘majority’ government. However, unlike the time when everyone voted, it would actually mean that the million people who were eligible to vote will now be controlled and governed by the wishes (and possibly vested interests) of just one fifth of the population (200,000+ voters)! Effectively, two voters get to tell the other eight how to live. Are you happy with that?
Put simply, the means of the Parliament is ruled by a group of people who have the support of just over two out of every ten people while they are actively disliked by just under two out of ten and a staggering six out of ten people, the real majority of the population, couldn’t give a damn who runs the country.
Strange thing is, if you ask any of the six out of ten who don’t vote what they think of how the country’s been run, practically all are guaranteed to have an opinion. Unfortunately for them, and for the rest of us, their opinion is totally worthless. It is worthless because they couldn’t be bothered to take one hour out of one day, every five years, to walk around the corner and exercise the right to vote. It is as ironic as it is sad to think that less than 100 years ago many of their direct descendants literally fought to the death, so that we could all have the right to walk around a corner and cast our ballot.
Quite simply, without you Ireland cannot be a truly democratic republic. Without you, the future of our nation will be left to a small minority of people who want everything to carry on as it has been, maintain their way of life and damn the consequences for the rest of us. You can make a difference between a country run for the well-off minority or a country of which you can be proud and that truly represents the needs, aspirations and values of the vast majority of our people.
Consequently, at some point on Friday 23rd, do what is right by taking an hour out of your day and take that walk around the corner. After all, it is YOUR country, your future and your vote.
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