Every vote counts in what will be a defining election

Published 27/02/2016 | 00:00

THIS Friday Ireland will go to the polls in what will be one of the most defining elections in generations.

With just days to go until the electorate has its say, the likely outcome - and who will lead the next Government and the opposition - remains almost impossible to predict.

A century after the Rising could Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael finally bury the political hatchet and form a 'grand alliance' to end Civil War politics once and for all?

Can Sinn Féin take the reins of a left-wing coalition government and take control of Ireland north and south?

Could the myriad of left wing parties and independents wrest control of Ireland's political left wing from Labour?

Has the electorate forgiven Fianna Fáil for their role in Ireland's economic catastrophe and can Micheál Martin dare to dream of sitting behind the Taoiseach's desk after this election or the next?

And what of Enda Kenny and Joan Burton who both have several pretenders to their respective thrones waiting in the wings?

They say all political careers end in failure. Will that be the fate of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste if their parties are savaged at the polls. Gerry Adams too faces an uncertain future should Sinn Féin fail to perform as well as previously predicted.

All these questions, and more, will be answered next weekend, after an election that promises to turn Irish politics on its head.

The 2011 election, and its decimation of Fianna Fáil, was seen as a turning point for the Irish political landscape but that vote, coming as Ireland's economy collapsed in spectacular and devastating fashion, was held amid a mood of phenomenal public anger.

In terms of public mood, Friday's vote will be an altogether different affair. Rather than an electorate predominantly motivated by furious anger at one party this time, the electorate comprises of a public battered by cut-backs, hammered by austerity and weary of the main parties and their promises.

As such, with an electorate that has another five long years of austerity to consider their positions, General Election 2016's long term impact on our country's political scene is likely to be far more profound than 2011.

A significant 70 per cent of voters turned out in 2011 and more are expected to vote on Friday. If that transpires it could see the biggest turnout in and Irish election since 1997.

The impact of last year's marriage referendum will also be very interesting. A huge number of people, young and old, who had never previously voted cast a ballot in that referendum.

If that cohort of new voters, many with no ties to the established parties, have remained politically engaged and turn out again on polling day it could have a decisive impact on the outcome.

For months now we have been hearing the stories of the men and women who, in 1916, fought and died for Irish freedom and for the people's right to a say in their own affairs. 100 years on, Ireland faces another defining moment and it is crucial that as many people as possible get to a polling station and cast their ballot.

Those who would argue that their single vote doesn't matter should cast their minds back to 2000's Presidential Election in the United States. On that occasion just 537 votes in Florida gave victory, and the White House, to George Bush after an election in which over 101 million people had voted.

If you apply the same percentages to the 2011 General Election in Ireland that's the equivalent of just 12 votes across the country.

It's simple. Your vote is important. Use it.

Wexford People

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