The battle for Foyle: Exercise your right to vote

Elisha McCallion and Colum Eastwood, the front-runners in the battle for Foyle.
Elisha McCallion and Colum Eastwood, the front-runners in the battle for Foyle.

Today electors go to the polls for the tenth time in just over five years.

On their last nine visits to the polling booths they have helped to elect two councils, two Stormonts, two Westminsters and two European parliaments.

The candidates in Foyle.

The candidates in Foyle.

They have had their say in a 2016 referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it is known, should remain a member of the EU or not.

Some readers - graduates of the National University of Ireland or the University of Dublin, Trinity College - will even have had a say in the composition of Seanad Éireann in the last elections to that body in 2016. For them today is an eleventh outing since 2014.

Thankfully while turnout locally has fallen from the 70 per cent plus figures of the 1980s and 1990s voter fatigue is not yet a particular problem in Derry.

Yet while 65.4 per cent of the local electorate turned out at the last Westminster election in Foyle - the largest political engagement here in a British parliamentary election since 2005 - turnout is not what it should be.

It’s easy to appear pious when stressing the importance of exercising the vote, that people fought and died for the franchise, so on and so forth....but they did, didn’t they?

Can it be right that just 46,136 out of 70,324 registered electors in Derry showed up at the last Westminster election?

That’s 24,188 voters who just didn’t bother. While the unusual and unprecedented constitutional context of Brexit has led some to declare this election the most important ever the reality is that all elections are crucial.

The Ancient Greeks, precious of their democracy, had a word for private citizens who refused to engage in the public square and take part in the the affairs of the ‘polis.’ ‘Idiotes’ is what they were called, from which we derive the modern term ‘idiot’.

According to the electoral office there are now 74,346 eligible electors in Foyle. It is to be hoped as many of them as possible turn out. Good luck to all the candidates who have put themselves before the people.