I’m not proud to say this: I’m not a great voter. I mean, I do vote – it’s only good manners after everyone went to so much effort to print all the ballot papers and shake off the yoke of colonial oppression ‘an all. It’s just that quite often I haven’t given it enough thought. I go to the polling station, smile at the election staff, tut-tut silently at the poor turn-out so far, covet the metal puncher they have for putting little holes in the ballot paper, stand at the polling booth, take up the pencil and … um …
General elections are more straightforward. If you’re stuck, you can always fall back on voting for whoever your parents would vote for. The ballot paper has lots of choices and you can always vote for a party even if its rep is a bit of a tool. And vice versa.
Referendum ballots are different. It’s a stark bit of paper like a very short Leaving Cert exam for which I haven’t done a tap of study.
There’s no glory in smirking at this kind of ignorance. Every time there’s a referendum there is at least one vox pop broadcast showing people like me saying “I don’t really know much about it.”
Well you know what? We could find out. It’s amazing what you discover when you make any effort at all. Like that there’s a second referendum on Friday. Who knew?!
As for the Seanad – I’ve done the reading and honestly still don’t know. The Seanad seems benign enough. The odd time when I watched Oireachtas Report, the Dail looked dark and annoyed whereas the upper house was bright and airy like a new classroom in an old school. It clearly needs something done to it. It can provide oversight but has no power. The selection procedures are limited. It always seemed odd that university graduates could vote but others couldn’t. As if opening a bottle of wine with a knife and a teatowel in The Lads’ Gaff on a Monday afternoon of Rag-Week made you more qualified to decide on the country’s governance than a man who did an apprenticeship, qualified as a craftsman and built the very room in which you were watching Murder She Wrote, langerated. Whatever way we feel about it now, I wonder how the population will contemplate paying for a new Seanad in 2015 after two more budgets, especially given that some Senators having taken it upon themselves this year, of all years, to try and assemble a full Youtube montage of fruit-loop behaviour.
But just because a tooth hurts, it doesn’t mean it has to be extracted. And also you’d want to be sure the fella brandishing the pliers was going to extract it because it had to, not because he promised he’d do it ages ago.
On the other hand if we vote no are we going to be punished for it? Will it be held over our heads every time there’s a budget shortage of €8/9/12/20/whatever million by a sulky government?
With a few days to go before taking up that pencil in the booth, at least this time if I don’t know, it won’t be for the want of trying. And then and only then will I text home to find out how the parents voted.
First published on September 30th