Make Your Mark

25 February 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The wave of public protest sweeping across much of the Arab world at present will be remembered as one of the defining events of our times.
The fervour for freedom that has possessed the people of a number of North African and Gulf nations is marked by the irresistible revolutionary impetus that has intermittently propelled profound shifts in the history of the human race.
In some places, such as Egypt, it has already initiated a distinct if tentative change from autocratic governance to at least the promise of self-determination. In others, such as Libya, it is provoking horrific violent repression as tyranny vainly seeks to preserve its grip of fear on the minds and hearts of a resistant people.
The watching Western world, as it seeks to understand the complexities of the unfolding events through the prism of the international news media, will be minded of the events that precipitated the fall of a succession of Communist states in Eastern Europe not so long ago.
Although some of the media presentation of what is taking place encourages the West to view them – very wrongly – in ethnocentric terms, as the convulsions of less ‘developed’ states groping towards the enlightenment of democratic values, the images we are watching of the unfolding events, often showing exceptional courage in the face of threat and terror, have the power to provoke great empathy for our fellow human beings who are caught up in them.
Hopefully, in time, the sheer power of these images will transcend the meanings that some Western commentators and political leaders wish to impose upon them and will lead to a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of those peoples whose Islamic faith and culture are the subject of deep and sometimes wilful misunderstandings in the contemporary Christian world.
For the people of our own country preparing to go to the polls tomorrow in a General Election of exceptional significance for our own self-determination, events in North Africa and the Gulf seem to have a particular resonance. We are about to exercise a democratic prerogative that people in other countries, having had it denied to them or rendered meaningless by corruption for decades, are rising up in revolution to attain. Their actions are akin to the courage and resolution displayed by the founding figures of our own nation and their forebears.
The freedoms we enjoy as the bequest of past generations are easily taken for granted now. It is salutary to be reminded that they are freedoms that are not universal, that are being fought for in other lands at present as they were once fought for in ours with bravery, suffering and sacrifice.
It should also be remembered that our freedoms can be finite. We may not live in a society where they can be snatched away peremptorily, but they can be subtly eroded and undermined if they are not cherished and protected.
The Chief Justice of Ireland, the Hon. Mr Justice John L Murray, speaking in Monaghan Town on Monday at the opening of the refurbished Courthouse building in Church Square, was carefully cognisant of this. “Our Constitution,” he stated, “recognises that all power rests with the people and that the organs of State – executive, legislative and judicial – exercise their powers on behalf of the people in the interests of the common good and that each such organ of State is obliged to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizens.”
The Chief Justice’s speech, which can be read in full in our coverage of Monday’s event elsewhere in this edition, delineated very eloquently the onerous responsibility of the judicial function to safeguard the interests of the people and “to protect them from the arbitrary use of powers by governments, legislatures or other State organisations.”
What Mr Justice Murray was speaking of is, of course, the ideal of justice in which, as in the ideal of government and public service, the rights and interests of the individual, balanced with the common good, are sacrosanct and enshrined.
In the practical functioning of the State, watchful care is required to ensure that this ideal is not undermined. This is a duty that falls ultimately to the people to discharge, either directly or by delegation.
The most important means through which we exercise this duty as individuals is by participation in the electoral process.
The time to do so is now upon us. Those seeking membership of the Dáil as representatives of the Cavan/Monaghan constituency have spoken at length about the important issues. As a newspaper serving the interests of the communities that form our circulation area, we have facilitated this preparatory process by presenting to our readership the statements and policy positions of the candidates as fully and fairly as we were able, along with an appropriate degree of objective commentary and analysis.
The politicians and the media have had their say – now it’s your turn.
We would respectfully encourage each of our readers who have a vote in tomorrow’s General Election to give careful consideration to the interests and objectives they possess for themselves and the country, and to determine, in accordance with the proportional representation system of voting we use, those among the candidates who best match up to the fulfilment of them.
How you vote is not for this newspaper or any other arm of the media to tell you. But it is our function, we feel, to encourage you TO vote.
Regardless of the importance of the current election, and it is undoubtedly of more than ordinary significance given the country’s economic problems, engagement in the democratic process is our most reliable guarantor that our hard-won societal freedoms remain safeguarded. Events elsewhere in the world are telling us that the right to exercise this safeguard is a very precious one, and it should not be wasted.
So exercise your vote tomorrow. Make your mark.

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