The Editor’s Corner

By Eoin Meegan

When elections followed the lifting of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 after 44 years of white minority rule there were queues a mile long in many rural parts of the country, with people waiting for over 12 hours to cast their vote. Similarly, here in Dublin in 2022, Brazilians who had an overseas vote queued for over two hours in North Great George’s Street in order to unseat the right-wing Covid denier Jair Bolsonaro. 

This demonstrates when something is denied to us its importance, its necessity even, becomes an indispensable factor in our lives; its absence an invisible wound. Of course, as soon as the coveted prize is won all too quickly it’s taken for granted. Sadly, today too many people don’t exercise their vote; cynicism, it would seem, has replaced Covid as the latest pandemic to sweep the world. All too often we hear people say “what is the point of voting, nothing ever changes,” or “they’re all the same.” Actually, no, they’re not! Democracy is a very fragile flower as events in the world today all too plainly show. From its first appearance in fifth century Athens, democracy has been the only system that at its heart ensures ordinary people hold the rudder of their own destiny. 

On June the 7th we will be asked to vote in the local elections as well as to elect MEPs to send to the European Parliament. Both are important exercises in democracy. Local government is the real engine of change, grounded as it is in community, answering the immediate needs of its citizens. Unfortunately local government here has been hamstrung for far too long by the central power. The government needs to give back power to local authorities. A revitalised form of local government in Ireland, properly funded by the State, with real teeth around issues such as housing and planning, water and waste, along with a directly elected Mayor, replacing the current, private leaning, executive directed system could be transformative, and make a seismic difference in the lives of ordinary people. It is no accident that the first democracy was indeed a city state. 

Equally what happens in the European elections is crucial for Ireland’s future. Sometimes what goes on in Brussels and Strasbourg can seem remote and irrelevant, be it endless protracted squabbles about turf cutting or milk quotas which seem removed from our day-to-day lives. However, on a recent fact-finding mission to Brussels I learned that behind all the red tape that seems to define the European Union a great amount of important work goes on both in the Parliament and the Commission. Make no mistake over the next five years decisions will be made there, and legislation passed that will directly affect all our lives. So it is of the utmost importance that we take part in that decision making process, and send candidates of a high calibre who will look after your interests and serve you and your community, not Big Money. Because, as the European Commission rightly reminds us, if you do not make that decision then someone else will make it for you!  Every vote matters on June 7th  and that includes yours. Make sure your voice is heard.