Perhaps, for first time in my life, I will spoil my vote
YES VOTERS, like Tolstoy’s happy families, are essentially alike (if not quite happy), while each No and Don’t Know represents a unique form of unhappiness.
On second thoughts, most Yes votes will probably be just as negative as most Nos, being based on nothing more positive than terror of the future.
All I know for certain, less than a week from polling day, is that I will be voting Not Yes.
Not Yes is not the same as No, but neither is it a halfway-house between a positive and a negative. It is really a different kind of Yes.
For once, the conventional platitude that those who “don’t vote don’t count” becomes transparent in its spuriousness. Not to vote is to vote Not Yes, while avoiding voting No. Or perhaps, for the first time in my life, I will spoil my vote, but in a special, calculated way – by writing “Not Yes” across it.
But who will notice or care? It is not that No is for me the wrong answer, but that I know it will be misinterpreted as a vote for Sinn Féin or some other cynical entity with even less chance of having to implement the consequences of what emerges and deal with what happens next. A No will sound like the inarticulate speech of the unknowing, the unthinking and the beyond caring, whereas a Not Yes could be a way of making a precise point.
This referendum, then, when you start to really think about it, is far more complex than a black or white choice between Yes and No.
There are umpteen shades of grey, but there has been minimal space for any of this complexity in a debate characterised by two opposing forms of condescension. On the one hand there has been the condescension of what might broadly be termed “the establishment”, insisting that there is no rational answer but Yes; on the other, the condescension of those who urge us to vote No in the hope of feathering their political nests with the meagre, ragged down of our disillusion. The real question in this referendum is rather different from the one on the voting papers, or being discussed in the referendum debates.
The real question is the unwritten plea being issued to the electorate by the current generation of politicians-in-power.
It goes something like this: “Since we have no possibility of continuing to run the Irish State other than on the take-it-or-leave-it basis currently laid down by our, eh, partners – and set out unambiguously in this ‘stability pact’ – do we have your unconditional agreement to do anything we consider necessary to keep the money coming? Yes or No?” Thus, in this campaign, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have finally given voice to their ideological interchangeability. The worst nightmare of this generation of politicians would be to wake up one morning and have to face the prospect of organising Ireland’s affairs outside of the embrace of the dependency that has sustained it for so long.