Be careful what you wish for. It’s truer in Ireland than anywhere at times. We spend a lot of time moaning about the political system, but when someone comes along and offers something new, we still seem to have endless naysayers who don’t want to even listen to what’s on offer.
Barely was the ink dry on the Reform Alliance’s SIPO forms than they were off. Too many people telling us we don’t need a new political alternative. What could they possibly offer? It wouldn’t matter much, we always end up with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael anyway. They’re not really a Party, though, are they???
At the end of the day, though, all of those giving a thumbs-down to the idea of a new Party before it’s even confirmed are forgetting one simple thing – there’s something exciting about it. Sure, we don’t know what the Reform Alliance has to offer in terms of policy positions; about where they’ll find common ground or what it will look like when they get there. But what’s so scary about finding out?
The same commentators who don’t want to give the any new movement a chance will be the same ones shaking their heads at the low turnout on Election Day. They’ll write articles about voter disillusionment and how it’s not good for the country, and how something must happen to make things change. Well, things are changing. And I for one want to see what the change looks like. I’m not going to write it off just because it doesn’t come wrapped in the name of a Party my grandfather voted for. I’m making my voting decisions these days on far more recent issues.
Things like housing, austerity, employment, emigration – those are the things that concern me as a voter. Do the politicians I vote for respect what I say? Do they value my vote? Or will they forget the reasons why I’ve voted for them the second it’s in the bag? In an ideal world, there should be some mutuality of respect between politicians and voters. In Ireland, that sense has been sliding of late.
Regardless of how you feel about abortion, last year’s events showed us that the Fine Gael Party leadership have no respect for promises made to voters in the run-up to elections. There’s a reason why Fine Gael were so anxious to give a pro-life commitment before the last election – they knew its value. So where do pro-life voters like me go now that the unthinkable has happened and this Government has legislated for abortion up to birth? They go somewhere other than Fine Gael, that’s where.
Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan might find talk of the Reform Alliance “amusing” at this stage, but I can’t imagine he’s too tickled pink at the fact that the Party he chairs has lost every pro-life vote in Ireland for the forseeable future. Those votes mattered in 2011; they’ll matter just as much in 2016. They just haven’t found a home yet.
The pro-life issue isn’t the only thing I’m concerned about as a voter, just as it shouldn’t be the only item on the list for any politician considering starting a new Party. It is something to consider though, especially when you remember the 40,000-odd who attended pro-life vigils during the summer.
When it comes to the Reform Alliance Conference later this month, I won’t necessarily be going along to hear the pro-life issue discussed. The politicians who lost the Fine Gael whip have already proved themselves on that score. I’ll trust them far more than I’ll trust anyone who couldn’t bring themselves to stand up to Enda Kenny back in July.
I’ll be in the RDS on 25th January because I want to see a change to the way things are done in this country. I don’t know what the Reform Alliance have to offer yet, but I know they’re men and women who have the courage of their convictions; who know the importance of trust in the strange game of politics. And really, when you think of it, how many politicians like that do you know?