21 October 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The sound and fury of the Presidential election campaign is almost at an end.
On Thursday next, October 27, the people go to the polls to decide who the occupant of the office will be – and also to reach a determination on two important referenda that have been regrettably neglected as a focus of analysis and debate in favour of the noisy campaign shouting and media infatuation generated by the race for the Áras.
The Presidential contest has been unprecedented in many respects.
The number of candidates and the variegated constituencies of outlook and opinion they encompass has in one respect been a healthy manifestation of democracy.
The unfair and antiquated method by which presidential candidacy is secured has been countermanded, not without great difficulty in some cases, to leave voters with a broad field of choice, formed by aspirants who collectively present a fascinating kaleidoscope of the ideologies and concerns that compose the modern Ireland.
But the manner in which the campaign has been conducted has been distracting in several senses of the word.
The constitutionally significant but in day-to-day practice largely ceremonial function of the Irish President has been transmuted by at least some of those seeking the office, and by the predominant tone of media coverage, into something more akin to the Presidency of the United States – a much more powerful and politically charged post of responsibility.
The public we trust, will not have been deceived by this rather flimsy attempt at alchemy – but it has been extremely difficult for them to keep an analytical eye on other matters of importance (the forthcoming Budget, for example, or the referenda) while the presidential circus has been force-fed to them as the only show in town.
As we predicted some time ago, none of the candidates have been spared inquisitorial scrutiny by the print and broadcast press – and while the insistence on probity has sometimes been carried to absurd and hypocritical lengths, some very important questions have been put to the candidates in the process, and the manner in which they have responded has a bearing on assisting the voter in determining their fitness for the office they are seeking.
And that office is important – certainly not the only show in town, or the most significant to terms of our everyday lives, but a position of some consequence nonetheless.
The President can’t create jobs or haul the country out of recession – but, as President McAleese and her predecessor President Robinson have demonstrated, they can exert a not insignificant influence on issues of social concern and neglected sectors of society simply by according them the dignity of their attention, just as they can influentially nuance the perception of this country’s image abroad when discharging their ambassadorial function.
Voters should therefore give serious consideration to their choice as holder of the office.
When they separate the wheat of what they have learned in all the campaigning and coverage from the considerable chaff, they will be left with very distinctive features that individualise the candidates before them. They should match these against their own best image of what a President should be, and vote accordingly, taking full advantage of the proportional representation system that is at their disposal.
We would also appeal to our readers to acquaint themselves as fully as they can with the issues at stake in the two referenda they are also been asked to vote upon on October 27.
This is not a straightforward task, as the proposed changes to the Constitution, particularly that pertaining to increasing the powers of the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries, are complex and potentially very far-reaching.
It is a highly unsatisfactory situation that the implications of these proposals are only now being teased out in analysis and political commentary, and that our national politicians seem in the main to be either ignorant of them or indifferent as to their possible consequences.
If the poor voter has been beset from all sides as to what to do on the issue of the presidency, he or she is very much being left to their own devices on the issues of the referenda.
The literature being distributed by the Referendum Commission is of some explanatory assistance. Voters still have time to assimilate it and to address questions that concern them to their political representatives, and we would encourage them to do so.
Above all, we would encourage you to cast your ballot on Thursday next.
Three important votes are at your disposal – you should use them.

It was encouraging to hear from Garda Superintendent Michael Clancy at Tuesday’s meeting of the Monaghan Town Joint Policing Committee of recent downward trends in incidents of assault and burglary in the locality.
Good policing practices have evidently impacted on burglaries in the area at a time when they are a distressingly common occurrence elsewhere, and while one cannot become complacent about such crime the Superintendent’s comments will be reassuring to those who perceive themselves vulnerable to it.
A reduction in assaults, particularly of the domestic variety, is also to be welcomed.
However it was distressing to hear the Superintendent announce the necessity for a renewed Garda campaign against the abuse of disabled parking spaces, the force having detected almost fifty such offences on its own watch in recent times despite previous approaches that appeared to have a positive effect on the practice.
On the scale of crime, this might not seem a serious offence – but it is a manifestation of outright disrespect towards disabled drivers, and the disabled community at large, that deserves to be punished.
Proper accommodations for those with disabilities in Irish society have come about incrementally and been hard won.
Those who thoughtlessly or selfishly occupy those spaces allocated for disabled motorists are engaging in an aggressive form of discrimination against this sector of society.
We sincerely hope the renewed Garda campaign has the effect of stamping out such abuse.
We hope too that the public at large will adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards such offenders and let any they come across know their disapproval for such shameful disrespect.

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