Monday, 27 May 2019


                                                    The Irish Election: lives on the line.

I'M ABOUT to make a sweeping generalisation: brace yourselves.
Irish people love politics. In a world where people who can vote often don't bother, and where whole generations of voters respond only to soundbites and daily dramas in high places, we live for old-fashioned elections.

I should clarify this immediately by saying that I have no idea what happens to us when we leave our little parcel of land in the middle of the Atlantic. Maybe when we emigrate, we assimilate so well that if our fellow countrymen are indifferent, so are we. I'd like to think not, but I can't be sure.

But back to the 4.8 million right here in the Republic of Ireland. Give us an election: local, general or European and we're happy out. Promise us a referendum (which is how we voted in same-sex marriage and on Friday last, how we reduced the wait for divorce from four to two years) and we're fairly ecstatic.

Never mind the nay-sayers who give out about the election posters littering the lamp-posts the length and breadth of the country. Or the thousands of us disturbed in the middle of our dinner to greet canvassers and candidates on our doorstep. Who cares if we have spinach stuck in our teeth whilst we quiz them about our appalling housing crisis and climate change. Sure don't we love to have something to give out about?

And we're a small country. Not just population-wise. Land-wise, too. So it's easy to get around. Relatively. And we tend to know everyone. That's actually the truth. If we don't know someone, we'll quiz them until we discover someone they know, that we know as well. In fact, if you're not careful, you'll find that the person you've been quizzing is actually a distant relation. Or they sat beside you in school 30 years ago. Or they know someone you know, who you rather they didn't.

And Irish politicians are particularly skilled at discovering what's known as your 'seed and breed': who your parents are, where you grew up and with whom, and most importantly what your political allegiances are.

That works both ways, of course. We pride ourselves on knowing who our local councillors and TDs (members of Dáil Eireann*) are. Because you never know when you might need them to sort something out. Or at the very least, make a fair fist of it. We expect them to be articulate, savvy and when needed, stately. But above all, they daren't forget their roots.

But lest there be any doubt about the reasons to be politically aware, and especially, the reasons to vote - here's the 7 best.

1. After you've voted, you get a sticker at the polling station which reads: 'I Voted!' You can wear it proudly for days afterwards. It's especially important to share it all over social media. Because if you don't, it obviously didn't happen.

2. You get to chat to complete strangers on your doorstep at the most inconvenient times. This can provide a number of benefits, not least of them social. A little story to demonstrate from the recent elections. The Middle One answered the door one evening to a new candidate running for local office. The young man put out his hand. "Lovely to meet you," he said. The Middle One got a little stuck on the first part of his greeting. "I love you too," she replied, before realising her mistake. To his credit, he pretended not to hear. Unlike his campaign aide who stood behind him, struggling to  keep a straight face.

3. You get to play Lois Lane on your doorstep as you interview would-be and well-established politicians on everything from dog poop on the local beach to when-the-fecking-hell-will-my-grownup-kids-be-able-to-afford-their-own-place with the state of the housing crisis?

4. For two whole months before the election, you get to examine the finer details of all the main runners, based purely on their posters. Naturally you judge them on their political strengths, policies, experience, political affiliation and their teeth.

5. Thanks to our system of voting, recounts can go on for weeks. Which provides endless fodder for the media, free entertainment for the rest of us and other things to talk about apart from the weather.

6. You can take a personal pride in your achievement when your candidate gets in. You put them there! If you're Irish, you won't forget it, either.

7. Aside from downing a Guinness, while belting out the national anthem, it's probably the closest you'll ever get to honouring your country.

* Dáil Eireann: The Irish Parliament


Dear reader,

Thank you so much, as always, for dropping by to read my column. Now, a bit of exciting June news: The Night Owl Romance Summer Fun reader event is here!

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