Since I started knocking on doors many months ago the one consistent response I have gotten is that people are simply fed up with all political parties.
There is also a palpable sense of disappointment with both Government parties and the difference with the platform they stood on in 2011 and how they have performed in Government. So over promising and under delivering is the driver of disillusionment with Fine Gael and Labour. Both promised to bring a ‘new politics’ and a clean sweep of what went before however not a week has gone by without a controversy involving a Minister or another roll back on what was promised in 2011. In Local Government they promised that 80% of property tax collected in the authority would be spent in the authority however this was long fingered to pay for Irish Water.
People don’t expect miracles but they expect respect and honesty. Making outlandish promised and then failing to deliver on those promises hurts politics and further erodes confidence in Government and the system.
The opposition parties can be equally as bad. In Fianna Fail we have a party that seems to have forgotten its role in the economic collapse. Its easy to have a pop at Government on issues such as property tax and water charges but in Fianna Fail’s case they were both manifesto commitments in 2011! Sinn Fein are certainly making ground especially in urban areas. However they too are falling into the trap of raising expectation amongst the electorate. I find it hard to comprehend how they could afford the deliver on the kind of policy commitments they have made without raising income tax.
The media and political commentators are suggesting that the big winners could be candidates like myself – Independents. It is certainly easier to canvass as an Independent as you can’t be blamed for anything and the platform you stand on is your own. However some Independents are falling into the trap of over promising also. In my view if you are going to stand as a candidate for the Council you must know how it operates and what you can achieve. Many Independents are promising things that they simply won’t be able to achieve if elected. If they do get elected you will have Council officials spending 12 months trying to manage expectations.
So essentially the choice facing the electorate is Government parties, opposition parties, minor and single issue parties and a variety of Independents. While personal votes for particular candidates will take a large chunk of the vote it is the rest of the eligible voters and how they will vote that remains the great unknown. My worry is that the level of disillusionment towards the system is so significant that apathy could emerge as the big winner in May and we may well see voter turnout well down from the previous Local Elections in 2009. In that scenario it will be the candidates that have worked the hardest and made the biggest impression on the doors that will do well.