For many the entrance of George Lee into the political arena has been a breath of fresh air and given the electorate a sense of hope, much absent in our political and economic landscape this past 6 months.
With his appearance on the Fine Gael ticket many voters, otherwise undecided or reluctant to vote Fine Gael, now feel his presence brings credibility, weight and true opposition to Fianna Fail.
But, there is a local, negative impact. As we all know, voters in Ireland use local elections and all non-national elections to vent their anger at the government. Fair enough, it reflects the ways of democracy. However an anti-government vote in our local elections makes no reference to either a) the past performance of our incumbent local councillors or b) their proposed agendas for the next four years if they are elected.
Now, with the entrance of George Lee, some of our country’s local councillors are riding high on the George Lee Effect. They can expect to win votes, not on their past performance but on an anti-government / pro George Lee vote. Our local elections are the first real opportunity we have to voice our extreme anger and frustration with Fianna Fail and the government. Why wouldn’t we take it?
Of course it is hard to expect people to remove politics from the local sphere – but in truth, local elections are about local issues. Local issues impact our lives in many ways, big and small. Councillors who have not performed should not be allowed to benefit from either the George Lee bounce or the government’s underperformance. It’s important not to undermine the role of the local councillors: their dedication to local and community issues better allow our TDs get on with the serious issues of running the country.
Therefore, when we vote in the local elections – ie, for councillors, we must look at the past performance of the candidates, or in the case of new candidates, their programme for local government. Lazy and ineffectual councillors of all parties should not be re-elected based on their party affiliation. Issues such as the re-zoning of schools for commercial development, allocation of housing, water quality, managing our green and derelict spaces rest with our local councils and councillors. For me, running as an Independent candidate in the Dundrum local election one of my key issues is the potential rezoning of the Holy Cross School – central to our Dundrum community for nearly 4 decades. The recent development plan, as proposed by the existing council, has zoned the area encompassing the school for major town centre commercial development. In our case, the council is run by Fine Gael. Are we voting on this issue or are we voting anti-government, pro-George Lee”? “Celebrity or school”? What’s important to you?
It’s last chance saloon. Vote in the local elections for candidates who will best represent the local community interests. Let’s not muddy the water with national issues. We will have our say shortly on who has the right to represent us nationally.