Local politics still raise as many discussions and debates today as it always has. With just days to go to the 2014 local elections there is a great deal of indecision and uncertainty surrounding who to vote for, or indeed whether to vote at all.
Between the newly formed Ratoath and Ashbourne Local Electoral Areas, 27 candidates are vying for just 13 appointments to Meath County Council, and all of them are intent on earning your 'number 1’ vote at the polls next Friday, 23rd May.
Increasingly, voters are favouring people over parties. The general consensus is that there is very little point voting for the wrong person in the right party.
Focus has now been turned to the individual, what they have achieved within the community and how their track record reads.
The joy of a local election is that we have first-hand accounts and experience of the candidates. Many of us will have dealt with one or more of the candidates at some stage through various community initiatives and can make a more educated decision on whether they are right for the job at hand.
Forum asked local people how they were feeling in the run-up to the elections and found that while most people were happy to discuss their choices and opinions, they very much wished to remain anonymous. Apparently politics is still a very personal subject, at all levels.
Ciaran Doherty from Dunshaughlin says he would like to see a more prosperous town.
“I’d like to see more jobs generated in the area. I also like in a pyrite estate so we have no end of problems. There are also a lot of break-ins in the area and our nearest Garda station is Ashbourne and they cover a huge area so I would like to see more resources in that regard too. I’ll vote for the person rather than the party.”
Another resident from the Dunshaughlin area, Eileen King, normally votes a particular party but has been assessing the candidates and is making her decision based on the track records of the individuals in the area. “Locally I’d like to see some road improvements; some of our roads are dreadful. I’ve also had lots of problems with water and pumps over the years and have had to do costly work on our water supply three times over the years. We both work very hard and get nothing, we pay for everything. What I’d really hope for is a good education for my children and would like to see the Dunshaughlin Community College well subscribed and with good teachers.”
A mum from Ratoath is of the opinion that if you don’t vote then you can’t fairly have a say on what’s happening in the area. “I’d like to see resources for young people in the village. There are too many young people in the village and very little for them to do. I’d also like to see the secondary school in Ratoath finished, there are quite a number of children with intellectual disabilities who will be in trouble if the school doesn’t open in 2015 as planned. The village has no centre as such, there’s no focal point and that’s what I would like to see change.”
One resident of Dunshaughlin has never voted and has no intention of voting this time round either. “What’s the point? They don’t do any favours for me so I don’t do any for them”.
While her sentiments weren’t shared by her neighbours, scepticism is high as candidates seem to be tarred with the same brush as our Dail representatives.
Of course this is not the opinion of everyone and Dunboyne resident, while undecided, is considering all of his options carefully, “I’m tired of the buzz words and the sales pitch. I’d like a candidate to come out and let us know what is and what isn’t possible, instead of promising everything. In any job you need to prioritise and this should be no different, they can’t do everything and that’s fine. I won’t automatically vote for a party, I’ll always vote for the person and always have. I would like to see people elected on merit.”
A general online survey showed that local politics is far from a sleepy subject as comments poured in, some expressing their opinion and many asking questions on how the system works.
One question that appeared time and time again was “Exactly what are the duties and powers of a councillor?”.
Very broadly, local authorities are responsible for providing a wide range of public services in your area. In addition, local authorities promote the interests of your local community, including the social, economic, environmental, recreational, cultural, community or general development of your area.
A fundamental role of the elected councillors is to represent your community, voicing local concerns and responding to local needs. The job of the elected councillors is to listen to your concerns and help find a solution by taking the issue to council meetings with the area managers and ensuring that the issues are addressed. Local councillors have a say in policy, they can put forward recommendations and suggestions but do not have final decision in the implementation of these policies.