Maybe it’s time to make voting compulsory as it is elsewhere

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman

If I wasn’t such a newspaper junkie, I’m certain I would have a happier life.

My levels of frustration would be normal and my heartbeat would settle down. For example, on a morning this week, after reading three pages of political coverage in this newspaper, plus Owen Polley’s column headlined “Stormont has failed, SF lie and DUP lack cunning in response”, I decided I need a biscuit to settle my nerves.

Time to make voting compulsory?

Time to make voting compulsory?

The packet, which was three quarter full when brought out of the cupboard was devoured in minutes. Yes, the whole lot.

And that was before I turned to national newspapers brim full of Brexit and Marine Le Pen’s chances of victory in the French presidential election.

I’m convinced that politics have to be really bad for our health because nearly a whole packet of strawberry and cream biccies can’t be good for anyone’s cholesterol levels. And it’s not just the politics. Its English journalists banging on about why Ulster people can’t get on together and in particular the esteemed scribe Charles Moore declaring that “Northern Ireland bears no marks of being a nation”. Can’t you just imagine how much pleasure Sinn Fein will get from that? I rage but manfully resist the biscuit box a second time.

We can all see how vicious politics have become here. It is really bad when faceless civil servants are running the show, education, of all things, getting less money and goodness knows where it will leave the health service.

And it’s not just this side of the Irish Sea. Even that most gentle- mannered politician Lady Sylvia Hermon, who sits at Westminster, is frustrated that MPs like Sinn Fein can still access public funds for expenses while refusing to sit in Parliament.

Not a passionate speaker as a rule, she let fly this week when Westminster was discussing emergency powers to allow Northern Ireland’s parties further time to reach a power-sharing agreement. She said: “Is this government prepared to take a hardline approach and a proper approach towards Sinn Fein, who do not take their seats, are still able to take advantage of a huge amount of public funding from this house for administrative and secretarial assistance?”

Lady Hermon declared to the House that she receives no allowances in support of additional secretarial or administrative and “I’m hugely resentful of the absentee MPs who claim to represent constituencies in Northern Ireland”. We all share her fury but what good is it doing us?

Yes, Sinn Fein are on a high, waiting for the power they think is coming their way because no one in power can do anything about them. It will be left to the people, the voters, to deal with the black hearts of this party, the northern leader of which, Michelle O’Neill, will be out this weekend ‘honouring’ the memory of the eight IRA terrorists killed by the SAS at Loughgall.

Even if, miraculously, we get an election here sometimes soon (I’m very doubtful of that), a percentage of the people won’t be voting. They boast there’s no point in it or they can’t be bothered. Some see it as something the working classes only, do. Most likely they will not have lost anyone in the Troubles of the past three decades.

How lucky they are to sit at home in comfort and criticise.

Our ancestors fought and sometimes died in revolutions to gain the right to vote and we owe them for their sacrifice.

Non-voters refuse even to stir when the Government provides the funds to take former soldiers to court for their role in dealing with the terrorists in Ulster, the same government which refuses to help relatives take private legal action for justice as a result of the IRA Hyde Park bombing which killed soldiers and horses in 1982.

The system is crazy, in bad need of an overhaul.

Could meaningful change come through making voting compulsory, as happens in other countries?