OK, think positive. As the appalling sight of Fianna Fail making a full recovery looms, and that party and Fine Gael face the ghastly prospect of having to dance with each other, let’s consider a few random points on elections in general and the south’s in particular.
- “I’m not remotely interested in the south’s election – it’s got nothing to do with me or my family here in the north”. That was the judgement I heard from one man during the south’s campaign. I’d say he’s not alone and I’d say it’s a serious pity he and others think that way. What happens on the other side of the border matters because the people involved are our fellow-countrymen and women. If you insist that it’s got nothing to do with you, you’re subscribing not only to the maintenance of partition, you’re echoing the gospel according to M Thatcher: “There is no such thing as society – just people and their families”.
- “All politicians are liars – they’re all the same” – another statement I heard over the past few weeks. There certainly are lying politicians – you only have to look at the promise list waved about before the south’s last election to appreciate that the Father of Lies has had a field-day there over this past five years. But to declare “They’re all the same” is a counsel of despair as well as breaking a basic rule of logic: you can’t argue from the particular to the general. You might as well say “All lorry-drivers are liars” or “All doctors are liars”, because you’ve discovered one or more who don’t mind lying.
- The south’s media take a line on Sinn Féin which sits somewhere on a continuum from Distaste to Contempt. Two examples : last week’s Sunday Independent had at least three articles attacking the republican party, led by Ruth Dudley Edwards who rolled out an imagined first 100 days of Gerry Adams as Taoiseach. As for RTÉ: on Friday it played a clip featuring a man on Grafton Street interrupting a speech by Mary Lou McDonald. When asked his identity, he declared himself “a concerned citizen”, adding that Sinn Féin were intent on ‘stripping the poor people of Ireland’ with their policies, that he wouldn’t be voting for them and would probably vote Fine Gael. Later on Friday it emerged, via social media, that this man is the CEO of a financial institution who drives a Merc. RTÉ News couldn’ t possibly not have known this, but that didn’t prevent them running the same clip on Sunday, with the Concerned Citizen as irate and concerned as ever over “poor people”, but no mention of his well-heeled position.
- In a fateful Castlebar speech, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny got fed up with people criticizing his government’s performance over the last five years. In his speech he said they were refusing to recognize how much better things now are and that they were, essentially, a bunch of whingers. He stressed to reporters that he was talking about local people only, in his own constituency, not throughout the state. Besides not being a very diplomatic thing to say to people whose vote you are seeking, this effectively conceded what many have claimed: that the recovery hasn’t been felt by an awful lot of people.
Final point: As Gene Kerrigan, perhaps the best columnist in Ireland, indicated in his Sindo column last Sunday, the big fear that southern voters have with Sinn Féin is not that Mary Lou will suddenly produce an AK47, but that Sinn Féin will allow itself to be sucked into the old, tired way of doing politics in the south.
Final final point: anyone who didn’t bother to vote deserves all the pain they got. You could have influenced how you’re governed and you didn’t bother taking the opportunity. Blame yourself for the government you got landed with.
And now I’m off to Greencastle in County Tyrone to take part in a 5-mile protest run. They’re objecting to the fact that a Canadian mining company is planning to dig for gold in one of the most picturesque spots in the Sperrins and in the teeth of objections from local people, who don’t fancy their countryside being raped and toxins drained into their water.