Politicians. I have to admit, the very thought of them calling to my door to ask for my vote makes me grit my teeth. Not just the Fianna Fail ones, but all of the others who let them have their way for more than two decades, by offering too weak, too unimaginative and too divided an opposition.
But it’s the Fianna Fail ones I want to stab in the head with a pencil when I see their grinning posters up, see them on television promising ‘reform’ – as if they hadn’t had a chance to manage that over more than two decades of being in charge. It’s easy to hate them all. And I know I’m not alone.
But the Irish are a passive lot. And while we might grumble and moan among ourselves, you still hear of people letting the canvassers off when they call to the door – of promising to vote for the same corrupt, complacent git who mucked up the nation, simply because he helped a few locals get planning permission, or got the potholes fixed. ‘Ah, the party’s no good, but sure he’s a decent oul shkin.’ That’s not good enough. They’re supposed to be running a country, not a county.
I’ve never been to a TD’s constituency office. I’ve never needed anything specific from my local TD, and I’ve never lined up with those who want to gripe. I consider myself lucky I haven’t had too much to gripe about. Even now though, in my fury, I won’t be leading a lynch mob outside the constituency offices – though part of me would like to. But I could have done more.
Just hating them doesn’t work. Despite what we often like to think, politicians are not all corrupt, or complacent, or evasive, or wafflers. Many go into what is an incredibly tough and insecure occupation and work their arses off with the firm intention of doing a good job for their people. Like the opposition who failed to stop the country going down the tubes, this mess is my responsibility too. We all did our bit to screw things up. We elected the clowns to office. And it’s up to us to take an interest, to exercise our right to take part, to enforce our will, to help make decisions, and to vote.
And the people who we most need to run for office, and to vote, are young people. The country’s not going to change without them. If you’re young, and you have the vote, please, please, please use it. If you know someone who has it but isn’t planning to use it, please convince them that it’s important, it’s vital that they take part. We need them.
Politicians. Hating them doesn’t work. But if democracy has one great feature, it’s that we can fire the ones who screw up – and make the rest behave themselves. And it’s up to me and everyone else in this country with the power to vote to keep an eye on them, but also to take part in the process. If we don’t play our part, we can’t claim to have a democracy. If you have a vote – even if you’ve been too bored, or frustrated or pissed off to use it before – please use it this time. Our country needs us.