Election 2016: Once upon a time,
in a galaxy far, far away...
by Linda McGrory
DONEGAL goes to the polls along with the rest of the
country this Friday to elect the five people they
want to represent them in the next Dáil.
All elections are important but 2016 seems even more
Ireland is a country in flux - politically,
economically, idealogically and even geographically
- geographically given the constituency changes that
have seen Donegal converted from a two, three-seater
constituency to a single, five-seater one.
We have a 'united Donegal' for the first time.
No more Donegal south west or Donegal north east.
That brings its own challenges - especially for the
Previously, many people voted along parochial
lines...for example keeping an Inishowen TD for
Inishowen or a Gaeltacht TD for the Gaeltacht.
When Inishowen voters go to the polls in two days'
time, we will have a choice of voting for the
betterment of the county as a whole - for example we
can vote for Killybegs Independent TDs Thomas
Pringle and first-time general election candidate
And vice-versa for the people living in these
candidates' hinterland who can choose, for example,
between Charlie McConalogue (FF), Joe McHugh (FG),
Pádraig MacLochlainn (SF) or Frank McBrearty Jnr (Ind).
Donegal voters who really care about the choice they
make on Friday have a multitude of things to
consider - and let's face it, it's the job of the
candidates to give us those considerations.
Putting the Donegal General Election
candidates on the map. (Click on Map)
There is the gender
factor - would we like to see more women represent
us in the Dáil; the stability factor - as Fine Gael
and Labour keep telling us, a vote for them is a
vote for economic stability. But Labour didn't offer
us a Donegal candidate this time so FG's Joe McHugh
and Paddy Harte are on the campaign trail without
their socialist side-kick, as it were.
Then we have the new and the nearly-new factors. The
choice of a brand new, untainted candidate to
represent us? Is that just spoiling the party for
someone else or a wasted vote on someone with scant
chance of election? Your choice.
Then we have the nearly-new factor. Sinn Féin have
been representing their voters in Donegal for so
long now both at local and national level, those
relatively young men, Pádraig MacLochlainn and
Pearse Doherty, seem like Dáil veterans. Being in
Opposition during a long, severe recession will do
Nevertheless, Sinn Féin, who are pitching themselves
as the best alternative to Fine Gael, Labour and
Fianna Fáil would also be new in terms of their
experience in government and managing the Republic's
In the nearly-new category too, is Charlie
McConalogue who has been in the Dáil for five years
but has no experience of government.
However, the Fianna Fáil poster in Inishowen is
clever. The ministerial and party veteran (Pat The
Cope Gallagher) is there in the background to guide
the new government hopeful, McConalogue, should you
choose to give them your one and two.
It's like Obi-Wan Kenobi coming back to mentor Luke
Skywalker as he bids to save the people.
Fianna Fáil certainly thinks the force is with them
this time - while simultaneously hoping voters will
have an intergalactic amnesia about the Bertie
Ahern/Cowen years of irresponsible excess.
I personally think Barry Cowen did Fianna Fáil no
favours up against Paschal Donohue (FG) yesterday on
RTE's Morning Ireland. He sounded belligerent,
something his brother, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen,
could be at times.
Donegal, like Ireland itself, is an interesting
political melting pot.
While it has traditionally been underpinned by
agriculture, its future outlook is modern and
technologically-driven (sketchy broadband
Indeed Irish agriculture is becoming more and more
technologically-driven with young farmers pitching
themselves in the growing, niche artisan business
Donegal also has a history of small self-employment,
a backbone often neither acknowledged nor
And then there is the bloated public sector where
wastage, particularly in management and
administration, is something that no Irish
government ever seems to be able to fully tackle.
There will be a big difference in motivation in
Donegal this Friday between a voter in the public
sector; a small self-employed business person; an
unemployed voter; a student, an employee on a modest
salary and a State pensioner.
And whether it's party versus non party or stability
versus uncertainty, could it all simply boil down to the infamous water charges on
What is certain is that by now our recycling bins
are full to overflowing with electoral junk mail.
Sixteen candidates makes for a lot of unsolicited
post and a long ballot paper.
Whether we in Donegal (arguably the forgotten county
in a galaxy far, far away - complete with aurora
borealis/Northern Lights) choose the stability
factor; the gender factor; the anti-austerity
factor; the new factor; the nearly-new factor or the
veteran factor it remains to be seen who will have
the X-Factor on Friday?
Remember though, Ireland has Proportional
Representation (PR) so it's your first, second and
third preferences etc that count...and they are still
all to play for.