Charge Of The Grey Brigade: Elderly Voters Key To Elections

John Coulter with his newspaper column from last week. Dr John Coulter is a radical right wing unionist writer and an evangelical Christian. He is a former columnist with The Blanket and now pens a column for the Irish Daily Star.

All hail the Grey Brigade of elderly, retired and pensioners who will decide the outcome of the 7 May Commons showdown in the North.

And the Grey Brigade’s vote will also play a major role in deciding the shape of next year’s coalition governments in Leinster House and Stormont.

Politicians seem hooked on curing the apathy factor by focusing on young people and first time voters, while the elderly are written off as yesterday’s men and women.

Quite often, pensioners are portrayed as the vulnerable or forgotten section of society who are the subject of muggings, robberies and lying on hospital trolleys for endless hours.

But people are living longer in Ireland, meaning there are more elderly folk in the community – and they need to get organised politically into the Grey Brigade.

Sure, we can point to the many organisations which cater for old people, such as ex-service associations and pensioners’ clubs – but they need a massive political voice.

During their younger days, many of these elderly served their communities and country with dedicated discipline. They are now the backbone of the voting community.
Tens of thousands of their fellow age group died in wars so that the generation of 2015 could have the freedom to vote in democratic elections.

As the anniversaries of the two world wars are commemorated, we can only imagine the horrors which would have descended upon Ireland had either Kaiser Bill or Hitler won.

For many elderly people, it would be a gross insult to the memory of those who died, were wounded or left with serious mental health issues because they had helped defeat these two German tyrants.

While it is important to get young people involved in politics, it is equally vital parties do not turn their backs on the elderly; politicians snub pensioner power at their peril!

But to have their voices heard, the elderly need to take a leaf from the gay and lesbian community and organise themselves into an effective and vocal political lobby.

Just as we are seeing pink power on the verge of getting gay marriage legalised in one of the most supposedly Catholic nations in the European Union, we need to see a cross-community Grey Brigade formed to campaign for the rights of older people.

This Grey Brigade can help combat the wave of political apathy sweeping across Ireland where some politicians are getting elected by only around 50 per cent of voter in some constituencies.

In the Unionist community, many elderly voters have become disillusioned by the splitting of the Unionist vote and the large number of pro-Union parties. The Grey Brigade must campaign for a single Unionist Party to represent all shades of pro-Union thinking.

In the republican community, there is a real fear among the elderly that those folk – either ex-inmates or ex-IRA terrorists – will be airbrushed out of republican heritage by a new generation of young nationalists anxious to prove armed struggle was a huge mistake.

If Sinn Fein and the DUP can work a Stormont power-sharing Executive together, then aging republicans and Unionists can form a common bond in the Grey Brigade.

People may be living longer, but the stresses of modern society also mean that many mental health conditions previously confined to pensioners are hitting folk much earlier in life.

The Grey Brigade must also campaign against ageism. Why should a person have to quit their job simply because they have reached pension age?

There are many pensioners who have made a significant contribution to their communities well into their eighties.

Accusing the elderly of holding onto jobs which keeps young people out of employment is a lame duck excuse.

One day, all of us – and especially all politicians – will be ‘old’. When the candidates come a-calling during election fever, just send them a clear message – it’s the Grey Brigade who decide if you will be elected!

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