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COMMENT: A summer election is the right call

Monday, 4th November, 2019 7:59am
COMMENT: A summer election is the right call

‘Vote-gate’ has undermined public confidence in the Dáil. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: A summer election is the right call

‘Vote-gate’ has undermined public confidence in the Dáil. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar used sound political judgement last week when he didn’t cave in to considerable pressure from within his own party to hold a pre-Christmas general election.

Predictably, the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit was cited as the main factor in keeping the show on the road until next year, with an election in either April or May now the most likely scenario.

Some Fine Gael TDs may initially have smelled blood in the wake of the so-called ‘vote-gate’ scandal, with recent polls indicating that the episode had affected Fianna Fáil the most. 

In truth, this was a controversy that damaged politics in general and the electorate’s faith in the system. Personally, I’d be in favour of a ban on mobile phones in the Dáil chamber, plus a financial penalty every time a TD is absent for a vote. Voting on behalf of anyone other than yourself should be treated even more harshly.

A number of Fine Gael politicians didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory when it emerged that they too may have pressed the voting button for a colleague who was elsewhere in the chamber at the time. This is a shoddy practice in and of itself and, in my eyes, is as reprehensible as voting for a TD who has gone back to his or her office to make a call.

It’s the type of political shenanigans you’d expect to see in an episode of ‘Killinaskully’, not in our national parliament. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil alike will be hoping for a significant fade factor on this sorry affair by the time the country goes to the polls next year; another good reason to kick the election can further down the road.

Likewise, Fine Gael will be trying to create further distance from that whole ‘swing-gate’ business, a controversy that has plagued the party since the summer and is continuing to make headlines as the end of year approaches.

There are other reasons why Leo was wise not to hold an election in December. Bad weather can lead to poor voter turnout and, let’s face it, the electorate will most likely be in more forgiving form as summer approaches. 

With Brexit coverage likely to take a back seat for a few months, we can expect hardy winter perennials such as homelessness and the hospital trolley crisis to dominate the news in December. And with many families feeling severe financial pressure in the run up to Christmas, you wouldn’t fancy being a candidate knocking on doors on a freezing cold evening.

One suspects that Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin are both way too canny to behave like turkeys voting for Christmas.

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