Before the cock crows five times, the belief is that the country will be in election mode. Not a dog will be able to relieve itself against the base of a telegraph pole for fear of having a ladder placed on his paw. Not a handshake or a greeting will be uttered by an upstart candidate that won’t be cynically mistaken for a canvass. And the stage will be set for what will be perhaps the most open and unpredictable general election in modern times as the parties and their people stomp from door to door to get your vote.
It will be an election that will be fought across a variety of new platforms. The traditional hustings style situation or the back of a lorry outside the church on a Sunday will be eschewed for mass communication, with battles fought through portable devices, and opinions whether substantiated or not, being made by supporters using audiences to which they had no access previously. Claims will be made and allegations will be made by “alligators” as the battle for every single vote goes right down to the wire. It will be an election like none before.
In the past five days, teams of pollsters set forth from these offices to carry out the first comprehensive opinion poll of this sprawling constituency for this election. And you can see the findings in the centre pages. This is an area that always springs a story, or a bit of drama. And the drama is guaranteed again this time because of Brian Walsh’s resignation, ensuring that there will be at least one new TD from Galway West/Mayo South heading up to Dublin in early March.
The results of this poll make for interesting reading, you can see the main points on the lead story on Page 1 and on the three pages in the centrefold. Several hundred people were asked to fill out a sample ballot paper containing the names of the 20 candidates who have declared so far for Galway West and Mayo South. And the level of confusion is interesting.
Polls come with alot of caveats. The cliche-ed “snapshot in time” is apt, because of the margin for error and the fact that so many people have simply not made up their mind yet which way they’re voting. 17 per cent of those who were polled did not know yet who they are voting for. In less than four weeks, they will have to make that decision if they are to partake in the eelcyion. In an election in which the battle for the last three seats will be nip and tuck, just a few percentages of that 17 percent could create a momentum that could send a candidate through to the Dail.
Apart from one or two, there are not many certainties in Galway West this time, and candidates who may have been written off are showng well, showing the danger that lurks when one believes a dominant rhetoric. Often people who criticise a candidate are of little impact to a candidate because they may never in a million years vote for them anyway. Often people do not get engaged in the election because of a perceived foregone conclusion. But democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
The closeness that our poll has measured ensures that the campaigns that will ensue will for the first time matter like never before. With so much up for grabs, it is no surprise that exaggeration and hyperbole will rule the day. Promises are being made that may not be kept. Commitments that cannot be made. It is incumbent on all of us to work the candidates, to make an informed decision, to partake in the process so that we know that the team we send to the Dail from the three new constituencies in which Galway people will vote…
There are four weeks until polling day. The campaign will be an entertaining and like never before, it will be so relevant. We ask you all to become engaged with the process, to become involved like you all did last year when so many people came out and voted in the referendum. There is a lot of inequality in life. But in the voting booth, your vote is the same as the next persons.
Voting is a civic sacrament. Treasure it and make sure that whoever gets it, deserves it and offers a vision of and commitment to a country in which you want to live.