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I HAVE decided to abstain from voting in the Lisbon referendum.
Why? First of all, I’m finding it hard to throw in my lot with either side. On the one hand we have the establishment parties which we’ve always suspected to be so similar as to be indistinguishable from each other but now they don’t even persist with the illusion, standing side by side in their efforts to push through an already rejected treaty. We’re told, with supreme arrogance, that they’re doing it for the good of the country. In effect, they’re saying we were very silly to vote No the last time and would we ever just cop on? God, lads, you’re embarrassing us in Brussels.
On the No side, you have a ridiculous campaign run by an invisible interest group calling itself Cóir which peddles half-truths and sometimes lies for a purpose that’s not very clear.
You have Sinn Féin, desperate to stand against the establishment, desperate to be seen as champions of the working class and generally just desperate to clamber out of the muck it has wallowed in for decades. Not a great choice. I voted Yes first time round. At the time, it seemed like the best course of action for our faltering economy.
However, far more important than European democracy is our own. And to vote Yes this time is to give the establishment parties the comfort that they have full control, that they can dictate to us how things should be done and that we, as an electorate, will toe the line if we’re browbeaten enough.
We cannot afford to send this message out, not now. The arrogance of the establishment has mushroomed to a level that is scarcely believable and it manifests itself in self-interested policies, awful decision-making and a culture of corruption and laziness throughout the political system.
To vote No, meanwhile, is to support flawed logic, emotional blackmail of the electorate and desperate lies. Some are considering a No vote as a protest against the establishment parties. But to support the illogical extremism of the No side is counter-productive.
So it seems we are left with no options. Well, not quite. We have the option, as always, to abstain. Ask yourself this question: will a Yes or No vote significantly affect this country for better or worse? The answer is no. It will have an impact, but a minor one. Far more important is to send a message to the establishment that we have had enough of the lies, the arrogance, of being treated like morons.
If you’ve had enough, don’t vote. By all means go to the polling station, as I will. Perhaps you can attach a note explaining your reasons. My primary reason for abstention is that I have voted already and this treaty, despite what we’re told, is not significantly different to the one we have already rejected. Voting No is seen as a protest vote but a far more effective protest against the establishment is abstention. By disengaging from the process we show we are beginning to lose faith in how this country is being governed. At the age of 24 I have lost all faith in any of our three main political parties. Too young to be cynical but it’s hard to have faith in our political options ... not in this country. And I don’t think I’m alone; the consensus seems to be that the opposition would not do any better than Fianna Fáil. Time to disengage, time to re-evaluate where we are and what we must do.
Let me finish by saying that to live in a democracy is a privilege. That does not mean the electorate should be treated as fools and blackmailed into electoral action.
It does not mean that failing to exercise your vote is an insult to those who are not fortunate to share that privilege. But it does mean we should have a choice and that we should feel the results of any election should make a significant difference as to how this country is governed.
And most importantly of all, it does mean that those in power should treat the electorate with respect, not as an inconvenience to be overcome in the decision-making process.
We have three choices in this referendum. I am merely asking people to take this into account.
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