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Talking ’bout your local election… April 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

I have to half agree with Back Room in the SBP when s/he says:

Surely there has never been such a hyped local election in our history.

And yet, and yet, if nothing else it provides an opportunity for us to vote, and to represent our interests as citizens and voters. And collectively it offers an insight into the broader political dynamics away from polls which are perhaps skewed in one way or another. So let’s not be completely negative about it.

There was a quaint time not so long ago when parties held conventions a month or so before the vote and hoped that their candidates had a high enough profile to make an impact.
Now we have the peculiar institution of Local Area Representative. Invented by Fine Gael in the early days of the Flannery Plan’ it is now used by every party to run what is a near permanent level of campaigning.
The Representative’ is in fact representative of no one but the party headquarters and its desire to leave as little to chance as possible.

But it’s not just party candidates who are doing this. I was thinking much the same the other day when reading some of the output from Independent candidates as well. So many seeking to make representation on my behalf. I hear that local government bodies last month began to refuse to answer questions from anyone not an elected Cllr, and in fairness who could blame them?

There is huge money being spent on winning as many of the 949 council seats as possible. Every backroom is in overdrive producing leaflets, buying ads, organising canvassers and getting posters put up.

There’s definitely some money being spent out there, though print costs are lower now than they would have been say twenty years ago so you get more bang for your buck. Though that’s little comfort for the individual.

Meanwhile, Back Room argues:

This increased ground-level activity has been accompanied by an explosion in political punditry about the national significance of local voting.

Hmmm… maybe… though this is definitely a stretch:

What happens on May 23 is, we are told, almost as important as a General Election and national political careers hang in the balance.

Is it really being stated that that is the case (though it is true that FG is hyping up the Europeans no end – as they would given that their candidate is not doing quite so well)? Though one caveat. A disastrous local election result could trigger national ramifications, for example Gilmore might have to walk. That is unlikely to pull the government down but it could make things hairy for a while. So let’s not be too sceptical.

In fairness Back Room isn’t wrong that local government in this state is marginalised.

Given that Fine Gael and Labour have both come out with a vague and uncosted promise to reduce property tax you’d have to suggest that they agree with this. To which you would have to ask if we have all lost our minds.
Let’s put this simply – in this country we do not take local government seriously. It is a political sideshow.

But it’s not entirely so. Back Room suggests that:

To go with its few powers [Local government] has fewer strong political personalities.
Politicians likely to be remembered in the history books for making big changes never hang around as councillors. At most they use a local election as a stepping stone to the next Dail election, or while waiting for an incumbent TD to take the hint and retire.
In our largest cities Dublin and Cork only one person who served as Lord Mayor in the last 20 years has gone on to reach the cabinet.

But, it’s telling to me that – for example – it still provides a step along the way to national elections. Look at the track records of most TDs, left right or centre, look at Ciarán Cuffe standing outside Connolly Station the other day handing out leaflets to get elected to an arena of politics that he presumably thought he’d left for good years ago.
In a way it almost doesn’t matter if there’s little real substance to local government, it exists as a potential forum, people can and will use it.


1. shea - April 29, 2014

Just after having this discussion with some one at the door. The only forum is the few weeks leading up to the election, people have a chance to vent or express or donate idea’s to candidates at train stations and doors, poor forum as it is but every few years the only one there is.

The assembly’ s and various committees themselves may be followed by a small few, may be a forum for idea’s for the people there but hardly the city who do not follow it. candidates elected have a sort of social capital but for what exactly iam not sure is it the title, the presumption that they get calls and mad hours of the morning to fix the internet? Its sort of like the emperor with no clothes, while one child called him out the majority of the crowd bought into it playing their role in the spectacle and stood in awe, what exactly did they get out of it, why did they do it, is there something ritualistic about elections.

Considering that when Davitt was advancing the local government act he saw it as a means of bi passing the home rule impass and create 100’s of home rule parliaments that could evolve into something else and comparing it with what we have now one instinct is to do as the boy did and laugh while another says you have the right to vote and even though it does not add up you have to for some reason respect the ritual. Fine position to take for things like christmas and reek sunday but not sure if its right for the good governance of my city.


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