Ireland Votes for Change – but what does that mean?

BallotThe ballot boxes are being opened in the 39 count centres across Ireland and the tally men and women are confirming the mood of the voters on the back of a startling exit poll on Saturday evening as the polling stations closed. The exit poll was commissioned by RTÉ, The Irish Times, TG4 and UCD and carried out by Ipsos MRBI. The result of that put Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin tied on 22%. These reflect only the first preferences votes and now as the boxes are being opened we will have to wait and see how significant the transfers will be when it comes to electing representatives.

Since early morning radio stations and TV stations have been hosting programmes with presenters, reporters, panellists and politicians trying to pick out some facts from the polls. What is certain is that the health service and housing are the two major factors on the minds of voters. These are issues that the outgoing government has not handled well. Despite that, early tallies suggest that Eoghan Murphy, the outgoing Housing Minister will retain his seat in the Dublin Bay South constituency.

The word “change” has been mentioned on a minute by minute basis in all coverage and with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parties ruling out going into government with Sinn Féin there is great speculation on what could happen. With Sinn Féin running only 42 candidates across the country they will certainly lose out on a number of potential seats but there is speculation this morning that the party could return upwards of 30 seats.

The questions being asked about those who voted for Sinn Féin this time are focussed on how many are “loaned” votes to show Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that people are not happy to leave the future of the country in their hands. There has to be a shift in how those parties go about their business in the future. As for parties refusing to do business with Sinn Féin we only have to go back to the general election of 2007 when the Green Party Leader Trevor Sargent ruled out forming a government with Fianna Fáil before the votes were cast. The result in 2007 meant that Trevor Sargent’s Greens DID go into government with Fianna Fáil. Sargent resigned his leadership after the deal was done but did accept a Junior Ministry. At the time we were told that parties “had to listen to the voters”. So in 2020 do parties honour their electoral promise and go into government with Sinn Féin or do they refuse to “listen to the voters”?

The fact that voters appear to have rejected the idea that there is a difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has to be significant, not just in the long term but in the process of forming a government.

Without actual results to hand, it is certainly very difficult to fully comprehend exactly what is meant by “Change”. We voted for it – now we wonder what shape that change will come in.

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