ELECTIONS look simple. You go into a booth, you put your mark beside your favoured candidate – in this election you add a second mark beside your second preference and so on – and you leave the booth, nursing the warm glow of having done your civic duty.
Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that. Here are five matters on which you might want to reflect.
1. Parties don’t have a policy, they have policies. Those who lament the orange/green split in voting clearly don’t get this fact. For the most part, people who vote Sinn Féin or the DUP probably do so because of the party’s policy or position on the constitutional question. But there is also a large number who vote Sinn Féin or DUP for other reasons – the party’s approach to health or education or the Irish language. And others who vote for one of those parties for a mixture of reasons, a range of offered policies.  One thing for sure – it’s time we heard an end to tripe about tribes and obsession with the constitutional question and you can’t eat a flag.  Having strong feelings about NEI remaining a part of the UK or equally strong feelings about the need for a new Ireland without borders or outside interference – both are totally valid reasons,  and there’s nothing dreary or stuck-in-the-past or simplistic about that voting motivation.
2. Distractions can mess with your head. The biggest distraction at present is the Ukraine war. There are people in the South, notably Simon Coveney, who now tell us they are keen on beefing up the Irish defence forces  by 50 per cent and spending a lot more money on those forces than the measly  €1 billion they currently cost each year. In fact, Coveney and other Southern politicians  have declared that post-Ukraine the south of Ireland must reconsider its traditional neutrality. No-one in Dublin 4 seems to have noticed that some centuries ago a foreign power invaded Ireland and is still here. Upping the South’s capacity to contribute military muscle abroad is like someone  rushing to the next street to help put out a fire, while the flames lick from the windows of their own house.
 3. Many say the Alliance Party will do well in this election. They will, if enough people vote for them. Traditionally, the Alliance Party has insisted that it is not interested in the orange v green of things, that it is concerned with health, education, jobs.  Sensible stuff. Those concerned about constitutional issues, Alliance has always argued,  are fighting old and pointless battles. But in recent months, with talk of a border poll in the headlines, Alliance has been fumbling around, trying to locate the reverse gear.
4. The unionist parties – the DUP, the UUP and the TUV – all have made clear that democracy can stretch only so far, and that a Sinn Féin First Minister could stretch it to breaking point. TUV leader Jim Allister, to his credit, has come clean and condemned any notion of a SF First Minister, and further condemned any ’stooge’ unionist party’ that would ‘prop up’ a SF First Minister. The DUP and the UUP have refused to say what they would do. Their respect for democracy appears to depend on who’s winning.
5. Finally, Jeffrey Donaldson has declared that Sinn Féin, should they emerge as largest party after the election,  will do handstands in the street and then start planning  for a ‘divisive border poll’.  You may be sure if the Shinners have a good election they’ll rejoice – was Jeffrey expecting them to weep?  As to working for a ‘divisive’ border poll: –come on, Jeffrey, old bean. Get your head out of your oxter. All polls are divisive – I vote for Party X, you vote  for Party Y. It’s called politics. You do believe in politics and democracy, Jeffrey – don’t you?
As for those people planning a quiet day on the couch this Thursday: you do know that if you don’t vote, you’ll deserve the politicians you didn’t vote for?
Thursday could be a turning point in Ireland’s history. So on Thursday, do your bit and mark that ballot.