Election 2020 – choices and consequences


A chara, – Election 2020 will be the first general election to be held in this country on a Saturday since 1918, an election cited as the definitive turning point in Ireland’s modern political history.

Yet a century or so later, we are unlikely to see any similar seismic shift of national thought when it comes to this country’s governance. Even with the monstrous scandals of the overspending and mismanagement of the new children’s hospital, the waiting lists in hospitals reaching record numbers, the housing market besieged with high costs, premium rents, and with over 10,000 men, women, and children homeless today, the majority of the electorate will shrug their shoulders and vote along lines that have been laid down 100 years ago. That doesn’t even touch upon the fiasco regarding the appeal against the Apple tax ruling.

This election season will be as predictable as it will be banal. Buzzwords like Brexit will be bounced around with nobody knowing exactly what they mean by it, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will swear they’re as different as Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, Sinn Féin will be admonished for not rejoining the Northern Assembly sooner, and all the while we will end up with a Dáil much like the one we had before.

The country is excellent at remembering our families, our allegiances, our history. We would better serve ourselves and our country if we were to start learning from it. – Is mise,



Co Westmeath.

A chara, – It’s going to be great! A hospital bed available for everyone, the country will be awash with new homes, five-star accommodation with full services for the homeless, taxes are going to be slashed, public services are to be increased, and a four-day working week will be introduced. Do all politicians think that the public believe the promises they make in the media? All are welcome to try it on at my door. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – The Dáil talked itself into an unnecessary early general election. If Leo Varadkar had been serious about having a May election, he should have proposed a firm date for that month and a timetable for an orderly wind down of the outgoing Dáil in consultation with all of the representative parties and groups.

This should have been done very early in the new year, preventing idle speculation from building up, leading us to this debacle. Most certainly a debacle when you consider that one of the consequences of the early poll is that thousands of people could be disenfranchised if they do not register to vote on or before January 22nd.

That leaves only a week for people to contact their local council to check if they can vote and then if they are not registered, the hassle of trying to rectify that situation.  

Even without this issue, the turnout could be low enough and, despite the election being on a Saturday, the current bad weather of heavy rain and wind could depress the numbers further. Surely the last weekend in February would have been more suitable?

Another consequence of the Dáil’s dissolution is that over 300 Bills have lapsed, including a Bill related to the trolley crisis, a patient safety Bill, and the controversial Judicial Appointments Bill. Some of these Bills may have been more worthy than others, but a number of them could have warranted debate over the next few months. The fact that the Bills have lapsed without any expressions of concern speaks volumes as to how TDs view their role as legislators.

The motivations of those who were desperate for a snap general election are predictable. Looking for promotion, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil backbenchers with a lot of time on their hands are always gung-ho for an election regardless of how it turns out; no surprise there. For commentators, it’s a parlour game that amuses them greatly.

What is a surprise is Sinn Féin and Solidarity/People before Profit cheerleading the calls for an early election.  

Aside from the Dublin Mid West byelection win for Sinn Féin, both parties took big losses in last year’s European and local elections, and it would have been strategically wise to take more time and try to reverse the respective decline in support.

The polls were unlikely to have changed much between now and May, so it is difficult to see where any party is now going to have a major advantage.

Unless Sinn Féin and Solidarity/People before Profit have a miraculous recovery, the election result will present the Dáil with two choices. A government led by Leo Varadkar that includes Brendan Howlin and Eamon Ryan. Or a government led by Micheál Martin that includes Brendan Howlin and Eamon Ryan.

Why all the excitement for that prospect?

Could it not have waited a few more months? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Given Fine Gael’s ambition to push the pension entitlement age up and up, perhaps they should stand on the slogan “Work more for less”. – Yours, etc,


Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Contrary to what Emer Hughes asserts (Letters, January 16th), Fintan O’Toole is neither haughty nor condescending toward the electorate (Opinion, January 14th). It seems to me his point was that we get the politicians we deserve. In proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote with multiseat constituencies, we have the gold standard voting system.

We also have plenty of choice. For instance, in my constituency in 2016 there were 14 candidates.

If we have “conniving TDs”, it is because we put them there. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.