Election 2016 – A Kids' Eye View

There’s a fascination with the posters at the moment, the backseat passengers of the car are commenting constantly on them.

The seven-year-old, who has the advantage of being able to read, is putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together. He’s asking how it all works, what politicial parties are, and how they pick the Taoiseach. He wants to know why Joan Burton is the only leader on the local posters, and why there are some different posters in his grandparents’ end of the constituency than in ours.

He doesn’t really get the whole idea of basing who you vote for on your candidates’ manifestos or track records. He’s viewing it as a “best poster competition”. He has a favourite, and some distinct least favourites, questioning why a local hero would wear only a pink tshirt in his poster and not something fancier.

The five-year-old who can’t yet read is commenting on hairstyles and the shapes of candidates’ heads. He likes the blue jacket man because he “met him at the bouncy castle day”, he wants a boy to win even though the lady “who rang the doorbell with the green coat” seemed OK  and says that the man with the red on his poster is a nice man, although how he decided this I’m not sure.

The small girl who doesn’t like to be left out is copying what the others say. “I non’t like that man, he’s hair is silly, I like the nother one”. Today we saw a very big poster and she announced  “There’s annuner new very big Malkybur poster” name checking a local candidate, she’s got great listening skills. 

When you’re seven you’ve a lot of questions about the election. You pick up comments from adults, or from the radio news on the school run. You hear about polls and announce that a party “did something really bad but I don’t know what”. You discount candidates for their choice of jacket, or because their poster looks silly. You cannot wait until you get to vote, and really hope that there’s an election as soon as you turn 18. You’re concerned about the President as you met him once on holidays and thought he was nice, and you’re reassured that he still will get to live in the nice big house beside the zoo after this election.

At five you’re delighted that your school is a polling station. At two you just copy your big brothers.

Elections are simpler when you’re a kid.

But my kids may not be the only ones dealing with the election in this manner,

Is choosing a candidate based on head-shape really any less likely to get you a good government than spending hours poring over manifestos at the end of the day?

We live in a country where national issues are put to one side, or squeezed in the middle between parish pump politics which reward a local representative who got a constituent something that they were entitled to anyway, and those who vote based on the side that their grandparents/great-grandparents took in a long forgotten war.

Politicians are “moderated” in TV debates  and acting like bold children or sneering teenagers, interrupting each other and looking at each other with disdain.

I’m tired of it. All the points scoring.

We all know we won’t have a single party government and that promise of an extra €3 Child Benefit or the abolition of USC will fade out when the coalition negotiations start. Then, the promisor can blame their coalition partners and the late night negotiations and we’re back on the merry-go-round for another five years, or until someone in office makes such a grave error that we do this all again.

Yes, I’m disillusioned.

I’m not convinced that anybody will actually change anything fundamentally. This might be a product of my age, my tiredness levels or my ennui. 

While I’m disillusioned I’m still exercised though.I’m shouting at the TV when my less favoured politicians start to speak, cringing when they make gaffes.  I’m not convinced by the factory visits, or baby holding, or walkabouts in provincial towns. I’m tired of the parties in power telling us what they will do, haven’t they had five years to do it already?

Don’t get me wrong, I love elections, I love the count and watching the results come in, hushing everyone to hear Returning Officers in school gyms across the country announce figures and talk about quotas. I’ll be glued to it. Then there’s the delicious potential of a hung Dáil, or watching the coalition partners barter away their principles. 

I’ll be voting, I’ve candidates in mind who I know I’ll be proud to have represent me and who’ll do their best when they can. I know there’s limitations to what they can do, but I get that.

What matters?

Health matters.

Education matters. 

Homelessness Matters. 

Reproductive Rights Matter. 

People Matter. 

Voting Matters.

But when you’re seven or five, what matters is that you get the day off school.  

The posters will eventually disappear. 

And then you’ll need something else to amuse you on the school run.

Enough politicking, let’s get this all over with and get back on track, get back to recovering and let normal programming resume. Go vote. Then you get the right to complain ’til the next time. 

Happy Election Weekend!

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