THEY’RE under starter’s orders... and they’re off. The runners and riders for the 2020 General Election have begun their race for the 33rd Dáil.
And it’s all to play for, with polls suggesting it will be a darn close-run thing between the two main parties, and with all the other parties and independents having a chance of helping to form the next government with one of them (unless Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael pal up again).
There were only 25,000 votes separating the two main parties last time out, not much more than the population of Ballincollig.
Will this be the year Micheál Martin becomes the second Cork Taoiseach, swept in on the back of calls to improve our housing and health systems? If so, there is room for a statue of him on the bench beside Jack Lynch in Blackpool Shopping Centre.
Or will Leo Varadkar, who will have been in power for a month shy of 1,000 days on election day, reap the dividend of an improved economy and a successful Brexit negotiation?
It promises to be a fascinating 21 days of electioneering... and here is my six-point plan to steer you through the maze...
1. Please, don’t moan that the next three weeks will be wall-to-wall election coverage.
It’s actually a mercifully short period on this occasion from starting gun to pencil tick (it was five weeks in the UK recently), and is a very, very small price to pay for the privilege of getting to choose our own leaders and politicians.
If you’re going to moan about it, I can arrange for you to board a Ryanair flight to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang for two weeks, to sample life in a dictatorship. (Note, the Ryanair airport is actually 60km from Pyongyang and you will have to reach the city aboard a rickety bus).
Besides, Love Island will air for the next three weeks too, if Leo, Micheál and Co aren’t providing you with your naked flesh and pecs fix (apologies for that mental image, but they are both regularly snapped topless in the sea).
2. Follow the coverage on mainstream media, specifically echolive.ie!
Our reporting will be balanced and will aim to tell you what each candidate in each of the Cork constituencies is offering.
3. Ignore the political echo chambers of social media, especially Twitter.
Barely had the starting gun been fired on the election, than a raft of opinionated, attention-seeking, virtue-signalling loudmouths had taken to social media to tell us all who should get our vote. Ignore them, make up your own mind.
You are Irish, you don’t wear your political heart on your sleeve as a rule, and you prefer to keep your vote private in the poll booth. Your other half may not even have a clue who you are voting for, and no harm there.
Twitter is particularly misleading, as the recent UK election proved, as it tends to be biased hugely to the left. More than two million people will vote in this election, and the million-plus who will vote for Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil will barely say a word on Twitter. And any who do come out of the woodwork will be brushed aside as a “Russian bot” or, even worse, a “Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael voter” (just joking).
On the other hand, the half million who will vote for Left-favoured party will all be shouting at each other on Twitter. IN CAPITAL LETTERS. AND USING MORE THAN ONE EXCLAMATION MARK!!! (My English teacher at school once told me that one exclamation mark is sufficient and anyone who uses more, Dolan, is a “dolt”. Different times, I know...
It’s always fun the day after an election to log onto Twitter and observe all these lost souls moaning about how they couldn’t believe the result. How did they lose another election when everyone agreed with them? If you spot one of these people, introduce them to an alien concept: The real world.
4. Vote for the person/party YOU want, on the issues that concern YOU.
I know it may sound obvious, or to some selfish even, but there are a lot of good reasons to vote for every candidate in this election, and a lot of bad ones too! It is a minefield out there, and selecting who gets your vote may not be easy right now.
Be patient and weigh up your choices. Try not to be swayed into voting for someone you are not comfortable with, just because a relative or friend says so. The herd mentality is for lemmings.
5. If a candidate knocks on your door looking for your vote, be kind (you might even make them a warming bovril on a chilly night, although do keep the lid on the whiskey, have you seen the Dáil bar bill?!).
There’s a good reason why politicians like to hit the hustings in the spring months (May being by far the most popular). It’s FF outside — Feckin’ Freezin’!
So if one knocks on your door, the least you can do is be polite. If you can, engage with them. If the conversation is lasting longer than a minute or two, ask them in, they won’t bite (hopefully).
Don’t be afraid of asking them difficult questions, they’ve had far worse on the campaign trail, believe me. Don’t be hostile, they’re your guest.
6. Make sure you’re on the electoral roll — and vote!