Stormont Turnout The Voter Withdrawing Consent

Sean Bresnahan of the Thomas Ashe Society in Omagh writing in the 1916 Societies blog reflects on the record low turnout for the Stormont elections and the crisis of legitimacy it should herald for the Sinn Fein-DUP Coalition in the Six Counties.

Following yesterday’s elections to Stormont, many reports, and indeed complaints, about low voter turnout are beginning to surface, with some arguing if you didn’t vote you have no right to complain and others suggesting voting should be mandatory and people compelled to vote or be fined. So much for free choice (as if one exists in the first place).

In my opinion a low turnout is a good thing. Were the turnout to fall below 50 percent then the Sinn Fein-DUP coalition could not claim a mandate for the austerity programme they are inflicting on our communities on behalf of their bosses in London. This is why I sat at home, as I will not allow my vote – not even were it to be spoiled – to legitimise the attacks they are perpetrating on working people.

While some claim it incredible that people complained but didn’t vote, for me what is incredible is that people still believe voting in a liberal democratic system can change anything of note. Maybe those who sat at home have realised this and thus refuse to participate in an organised farce, set up to secure consent for that which has not in fact been agreed to: austerity.

In reality, decisions are not taken within the outward framework of liberal democracy. They are reached and implemented elsewhere, with politicians thrust forward every so often as paid perjurers to dupe the public they had a choice or are somehow involved in this manipulated process, which is nothing but a facade.

This is not democracy but ruling by fooling. We are ruled by giant corporations and not the sold out political merchants in Stormont, their massive salaries and expense claims their price for going along with the system. It’s a farce, people see it and thus they refuse to play along. This is why turnout is down.

A clear example of how what passes in Ireland for ‘government’ does not in fact impact on our lives is the lack of a government for over two months now in the South. Society or the economy have not collapsed in its absence. Nor would they had a government not been formed for another two months again – or two years for that matter.

The electoral process then is nothing more than a confidence trick, used to manipulate the masses and encourage the notion they can choose their fate or at least act to limit the assault by power on our everyday lives. And that, by the way, is what we should expect – that the assault on society will ramp up over the time ahead, while our own corrupt politicians watch on in bought silence.

The reason behind what is to come is simple: there is an unresolved and soon-to-worsen crisis at the heart of capitalism. Having devoured the economies of what are known in econo-speak as ‘Lesser Developed Countries’, imperialism has no option but to turn in on itself and attack ‘its own’. That is what austerity is about.

If we seriously intend on challenging this then elections to Stormont are not the answer. Instead, we need to take to the streets the next time – and every time – there are striking workers in our cities and towns. On the last such occasion, at least here in Omagh, a lunchtime rally to afford non-striking workers an opportunity to march in solidarity was poorly supported. Our town gave a half-hearted response while politicians posed for photographs unmolested.

This is what needs to change, so the puppets at Stormont can see we are not just going to vote for them in perpetuity while capitalism destroys our communities, that we will not simply lie down so the party can go on for Cameron and Osbourne and for their corrupt friends – all while the cosy arrangement ‘on the hill’ keeps those there well-heeled and well fed.

We must show them through our actions that we will not stand by as murderous imperialism destroys country after country – the last of which, Libya, saw the sacker of Libya himself, David Cameron, met with a standing ovation by all 108 MLAs across all parties on his visit to Stormont following the butchering of that defenceless country.

Elections change none of that, with our politicians bought to ensure this is so. Instead of mandatory voting as prescribed by some, to ward of the pending crisis of legitimacy falling turnout brings in its wake, there should be mandatory opposition to the reactionary assault on the working class and mandatory solidarity with the victims of imperialism, which our politicians wilfully ignore.

Until we get to that point then not only do we allow the fake democracy granted us by our masters and their minions in our useless political parties to fool us further; we are in fact doing the fooling ourselves. Instead, we must take responsibility, stand up and fight back. If anything is to be made mandatory then surely it should be that.

  • ‘The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!’ – Jim Larkin


  1. Mandatory voting would only force the 45% who stayed at home to vote for the same people on the ballot paper. People are fed up to the back teeth with the usual suspects being returned to Stormont where they do nothing but dish out the UK budget allocation to the wee six each year. That and line their own pockets. Alliance and People Before Profit have done pretty well and at least that indicates among those who can be arsed voting, there is a desire for something different. Big John O'Dowd survuved the count but I heard him refute the notion that SF was destined to fade away in the future. Why mention it then? When Adams and McGuinness go, that could well happen to some degree, fragmentation being at least a possibility. More immediately, the election of Alliance and PBP candidates gives hope for a budding change in attitude. I know Alliance have had a presence in E. Belfast, but it is the consistency of their vote that encourages. One thing for certain, with PBP in the 'naughty corner' at Stormont and Eamonn McCann giving things his pennies worth there may be some occassions when Stormont Today may actually be worth a view. Up to now it was depressing just to see them all sitting there flicking through the channels at night. Don't think the global Capitalist conspiracy will impact much on peoples voting patterns in the wee six Sean, nor do I anticipate the massess taking to the streets any time soon. But water charges in the twenty-six are still a banana skin for the new FF-FG love-in.

  2. Great to see a grass-roots socialist working class party sticking it up the establishment, namely the Shinners! LOL