Journalists can predict with a certain amount of accuracy which candidates are likely to get a council seat in 2014; it is not rocket science. First of all, they know that the percentage of the electorate who will actually vote will be around 50 per cent. And, they know it is the over forties who turn out in greater numbers than those in their early twenties.
What the majority of people over 40 want most in politics and in finance is stability, so they will vote for centre right politicians. Far left candidates did make inroads in the 1980s when people like Liz Hackett and Jimmy Brick, The Worker’s Party, were elected to Galway City Council. Centre Left have moved into this space since, reaching a peak of six councillors in 2009 when 5 Labour candidates plus Cllr Catherine Connolly, Independent Left, got elected. Will this trend continue and grow? Time will tell.
At present 10 out of the 15 councillors [on Galway City Council] are from political parties from the old guard. They are a mix of Fine Gael/Fine Fail/ and ex-Progressive Democrats. This proves that Galwegians, who like to boast of being Bohemian/arty, vote in the main conservative, throwing in a few left councillors for colour.
It takes courage and money to run even for the a council seat. The bigger political parties, naturally, have more funds, while smaller political parties just don’t have the money. Independents need to have a good job with loads of off time or have someone to bankroll them be successful. There is also a time factor. If they work a 39 hour week with two weeks holidays and earn an average wage, they are completely disadvantaged. When can they get time to canvass or get money to put adverts in newspapers? These people’s views are sadly missing around the table at city and county council meetings. So you can expect Galway’s traffic problems for workers commuting to continue into the future.
In truth, most journalists never take the time to interview candidates or sitting councillors to find out who they are really about. Some literally despise politicians, sometimes with good reason. Journalists keep telling us on one hand that the public wants change, but are they not part of the problem? Do they not write off candidates without finding out anything about them and actually highlight others to win? Surly their job is to inform the public about candidates not to spend article after article making predictions like a weary fortune teller at the Ballinasloe Fair.
Now I do not want to down all journalists because without them a lot of corruption would never be highlighted. But, when it comes to elections, both Local and General, journalists could be a bit more imaginative and a bit more encouraging and compassionate with underdog candidates. I remember how hard people like Liz Hackett worked for this city as a councillor while holding down a full time job in Roches Stores. She spent hours helping working people only to be rejected by the electorate of Galway in 1991.
Yes, politics is a tough business, but surly it is about having the right people there, not necessarily the toughest.
Cllr Nuala Nolan,