It is important that people vote today in council elections

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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Voters will go to the polls in elections across Northern Ireland today, to select councillors.

It is likely that voters will then return to the polls in three weeks to elect MEPs.

The latter contest has not been confirmed, because the UK could yet drop out of those elections to the European Parliament at Strasbourg if it passes a withdrawal agreement, but as the tweet below from Robert Peston states, that is now highly unlikely.

Having two elections in quick succession to bodies that are sometimes not seen as particularly important to many voters runs the risk of voter fatigue.

But in fact these are contests of huge importance for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The News Letter traditionally is supportive of pro Union candidates, but neutral between such candidates and parties.

That remains the case in today’s election. However, this is a critical time for Northern Ireland’s link with the rest of the UK, and anything other than a large showing for unionist candidates will be interpreted as weakening support for the link with Great Britain. Republicans are intent on demanding a border poll in any event, but will be all the more outspoken if unionism seems to be losing its vote share in key elections.

But aside from that vital consideration, there is little excuse for anyone who is concerned about society not voting today. Councils have more powers than they did pre the reorganisation of local government, and now have considerable sway over matters such as planning, which is of vital importance and affect the whole functioning and feel of an area.

No potential voter can complain of a lack of options, given a wide range of candidates who have put themselves forward.

People across the Province will, rightly, vote for candidates they know and trust, sometimes from a range of parties. We also hope, though, that the overall pro Union vote is a large one, at a time when people are using Brexit to break up the UK, and are rewriting the past to justify IRA terror.