I’ve never had much time for ‘single issue voters.’ They’ve always struck me as irredeemably parochial, worthy even of contempt. An unfortunate point of view, considering I now find myself choosing to be a single issue voter. Yes, in this general election I’m voting on a candidate’s position on repealing the Eighth Amendment and their pro-choice credentials. I’m not comfortable about it. I know it’s an issue that affects 51% of the population, all across the country, so technically it isn’t merely a local issue, but it still feels strange to be that voter.
It is especially weird as I am still in Fine Gael. I supported them at the last election and had envisaged canvassing for them in this election. And truth be told, there is part of me that hopes they still end up leading the next government. Though that is based more on the paucity of credible alternatives than any affection or faith in Fine Gael.
I joined and supported Fine Gael as I trusted them to two things if in power. I expected them to, ploddingly and unimaginatively, (and in tandem with Labour, less viciously than would be preferred by many in the party) rescue the economy from the abyss that Fianna Fáil had consigned it to. And secondly I expected then to not be Fianna Fáil. They managed the first part. Yes, there were international factors, but Fine Gael played a part. They failed on the second part. They did nothing to make politics in this country anything other than the tawdry mess that was once the near exclusive preserve of Fianna Fáil.
In fairness to Fine Gael, my disaffection is not all on them. I have experienced a gradual change in political perspective over the last few years. Where once I was a ‘true blue’ Progressive Democrat, I now find myself wondering again about the State. I have begun to wonder if my mistrust of the State’s ability to play any sort of useful role in society was less an ideological stance and more a contempt based on my experiences with habitually under resourced and dreadfully led services.
It is an uncomfortable experience, rethinking one’s ideology, one I would prefer to avoid. But contact with reality is terribly educational. I have worked in what is sometimes pejoratively described as the ‘poverty industry’ all my adult life. That’s over twenty years dealing with people who require huge wads of other people’s money to just survive, never mind thrive. The first portion of my career was spent getting over the fact that I didn’t know what poor was. I thought I’d grown up poor, but fuck me I didn’t have a clue. The next part of my career coincided with the ‘property bubble.’ That was a great time for me. There was so much money being thrown at services that my salary shot up and I had my pick of jobs. Of course it never occurred to me at the time that while I was getting better pay, more options and more colleagues, nothing was actually changing.
It took me a long time to realise that. I can be very slow at times. Reading ‘Oliver Twist’ for the first time, helped a bit. Seeing the differing experiences of my middle class friends and my working class friends helped. Owning a house and being strapped for cash helped. Getting older and having to pay for regular dentistry and GP visits helped. Twitter helped. And writing helped.
I have had to finally accept that for all its egregious shortcomings, only the State has the resources, reach and breadth to replace charity with rights. To ultimately make me redundant.
For many people that is not a startling realisation. To many it’s actually a truism, but for someone who still retains a certain sympathy for libertarianism it’s like losing a religion. It is very unsettling as one’s political beliefs do become part of one’s identity. Perhaps I now understand why so many people still voted for Fianna Fáil at the last election, or who remain within the Roman Catholic Church, despite everything.
Now what to do with this new found and still grudging acceptance of the State as a necessary vehicle for positive change? I’m not sure.
I like being in a political party. I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys political activism. But I look at what’s out there and I’m left cold. I can see why independents are so popular. In a country where politics is so degraded, voting for the local guy who’ll talk tough to them there people in Dublin, but who really only succeeds in fucking over the people in the next county, is an attractive prospect. In my county, Kerry, there’s a very real prospect of two Healy-Raes winning seats. That’s what we get for Fine Gael failing to not be like Fianna Fáil. That’s what we get when Labour destroys itself trying to prove themselves to everyone except their core vote.
I want to be in a party and it’ll have to be left of centre but as close to the centre as possible. A party that is brave enough to say that people can have world class services or low taxes, but they can’t have both. Obviously that leads me to the Social Democrats. I like a lot of what they have on offer. But I have a problem. The big beast of the left is Sinn Féin. If I live to be a hundred, I will not vote for that party nor lend them any support, direct or indirect. And being in a party of the left may lead to that eventuality.
So I’m stuck. I hope to have gotten myself out of this bind by the time the next election is called, but for now I am left trying to decide who to vote for in this election. Voting pro-choice is at least using my vote positively, but it is an unsatisfactory solution.
To that end I contacted all but two of the candidates standing in Kerry. I didn’t bother with Mary FitzGibbon, because, well why bother. And I’d already contacted Michael Healy-Rae so I know where Healy-Rae éile stands.
I emailed fourteen of the sixteen candidates. Seven chose to reply. Of them, independents, Michael Healy-Rae and Henry Gaynor were avowedly anti-choice. Independent Kevin Murphy, Renua’s Donal Corcoran, Grace O’Donnell (FG) and Norma Moriarty (FF) have all said they are pro-choice. Martin Ferris (SF) managed, in one sentence, to convey his unenthusiastic adherence to his party’s policy of repealing the Eighth.
I got no reply from AJ Spring (Lab), but from his radio appearances he appears to be an unenthusiastic supporter of a woman’s choices, but only in very limited circumstances. Same goes for Jimmy Deenihan (FG) and Brendan Griffin (FG). John Brassil (FF) is anti-choice, I know this as he canvassed me. Brian Finucane (PBP) is as far as I know, pro-choice. And the local Green is anti-choice (only in Kerry would that happen). Michael O’Gorman, Independent, no reply and no idea.
And therein lies the biggest problem with being a single issue voter. Based on my knowledge of the candidates views on repealing the Eighth Amendment and their support for a woman’s right to choose, I will be voting for a Fianna Fáil candidate, a Fine Gael candidate, a Renua candidate, two anti-water charges candidates, with a grudging lower preference to the Labour candidate and possibly my two lowest preferences for the two sitting FGers. Not a single one of them, bar the two FG candidates, has the slightest chance winning a seat. What’s the point of that?