Deputy Martin Kenny was elected on the first count
A cancelled flight on Saturday meant I didn’t get to vote in the general election.
At the time of writing (Sunday morning) the exit polls indicated that the three biggest parties, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, and Fianna Fail, were tied on 22% apiece in a remarkably close-run election.
The Ipsos MRBI poll for RTE, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD also showed the Green Party on 8pc, Labour on 5pc, the Social Democrats on 3pc, Solidarity People Before Profit on 3pc and Independents on 11pc.
The only certainty this offers is uncertainty.
The nuances of each seat, the critical transfers, and most importantly the big picture of the Sligo-Leitrim constituency (which of course includes parts of South Donegal and North Roscommon) will be covered in detail elsewhere in The Leitrim Observer.
An IT Sligo-Ocean FM Exit Poll (based on a sample of 978 voters) suggested that Deputy Martin Kenny would top the poll with FF’s Marc MacSharry and Eamonn Scanlon likely to take seats two and three with Independent Marian Harkin to pip the last of the four seats.
A disastrous result for FG and reflective of the anger and frustration directed by many of the more disenfranchised and disadvantaged parts of the country towards the incumbents.
Removing party-politics from the debate for a moment I would like to congratulate Deputy Kenny who, along with his family, endured unacceptable intimidation and abuse following his moral stance on backing a direct provision centre in Ballinamore.
Rhetoric emanating from some extremes in the region suggested he might ‘suffer’ in the polls. The results indicate the opposite. Those who shout loudest don’t always reflect the voice of the people.
Congratulations to Martin, to the rest of the successful candidates, and to the other 15 individuals who put their head above the parapet and their name on the polling paper.
A dangerous narrative has developed regarding our elected representatives. I know we have been ‘blessed’ with more than our fair share of politicians that were in the game to feather their own nest and that of their cronies. But if we tar all politicians with the sins of the worst of their ilk, we do democracy a disservice.
The hurlers on the ditch really find their vitriolic voices around election time. If politics is such an easy option, take up the challenge. The problem for the keyboard warriors is that they would have to put their real name on a ballot paper – they have become too used to hiding behind an anonymous handle on social media.
We need in the political arena good people with strong principals underpinned by solid policies. I don’t have to agree with all of them. I just need a candidate I can vote for that I feel reflects my values and beliefs. As should everyone. Those who can form a government must be steadfast enough to bring promised policies to the table and, if possible, to fruition.
Looking back, here’s a few lessons that I feel we need to take from GE2020:
The Sinn Fein gain shows we are no longer a two-party dominated political landscape. A generation who have always voted either FG or FF continued to do so (representing about 22% each or 44% of the turnout). The floaters, who may once have considered a vote for any other party to be a wasted one, are now happy to shop elsewhere.
The greatest teams, leaders, companies, always look to learn and adapt when they are on an upward trend rather than when things start to slip. Sinn Fein would do well to pay heed to this. They have captured the imagination of huge swathes of the population by (many would claim) offering populist solutions to complex societal problems.
Their challenge now is to get into power and prove their policies stand up. To do that they need to reassure those who remain uneasy about the party’s past paramilitary links.
I am one of those, even though I have given a Sinn Fein candidate a vote in the past.
A quick example – Newstalk Radio jumped to the Dublin North West polling station on Sunday morning where Sinn Fein’s Dessie Ellis was primed to top the poll. They were greeted by a rousing rendition of ‘Come out ye Black and Tans’. I found it depressing that a party that ran a successful campaign on the most important social issues (housing and health), promising a new political approach for a modern Ireland, could be reduced to such a cliché.
As I said earlier, I don’t have to agree with every party’s values, but if Sinn Fein is to become big enough to truly change the face of modern Irish politics, it must realise that while some of its ‘fighting’ rhetoric will always appeal to its core supporters, for others it is demonstrative of an element of the Irish psyche that we find one-dimensional and outdated.
The Greens have made some gains but the Green wave hasn’t materialised outside Dublin. This reflects the urban-centric tone of their debate – even their most impressive rural candidate Saoirse McHugh looks out of luck in Mayo with just over 4,000 first preference votes. If the necessary green revolution is to happen in Ireland – and if you care about the lives of your children’s children’s children we must learn to live more sustainably – the farming community will have to be at the heart of it.
The anti-establishment vote in Ireland has thankfully bucked some of the international trend by leaning left rather than right, in part helping to fill the void left by the decimation of Labour in the last election.
The question for the fractured left in Ireland is can they stand together? And, if given power by the people, can they balance the books while implementing in a sustainable way the election promises that they made or at least act as a counterbalance in a collation with either centre right FG or FF?
Opposition is an easy place to be. Leading is a more demanding dynamic altogether. For whoever forms the next government, if one can be fashioned from the jigsaw of results, compromise and collaboration will have to be fundamental principles. And if General Election 2020 is predictive of the future political landscape, that ain’t gonna change any time soon.