SANDRA CHAPMAN: Politicians’ promises are flying around - yes, it’s election time!

I was a very young child when I first became aware of voting.

By Sandra Chapman
Saturday, 30th April 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 30th April 2022, 6:13 am
John Finucane MP, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, and Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill during the Sinn Fein manifesto launch at the MAC, Belfast.
John Finucane MP, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, and Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill during the Sinn Fein manifesto launch at the MAC, Belfast.

I have this vague memory of my parents talking about the subject.

We didn’t have a car in those days, most people in the locality cycled anywhere they needed to go, and as we must only have had one bike that I recall, it was my mother who mostly used it, even for the odd time she voted. In fact, I’m fairly certain my father never voted, even when he finally bought a van so he could take us on outings.

I do recall a stranger calling at the door and talking to my mother. Where we lived at the time was half catholic and half protestant – I learned that when I was a bit older – they had a short chat and he left.

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Years later I learned that only the nationalist contenders visited that area seeking votes. We were not a nationalist family. There were Catholics on either side of us – one was the local parish priest – and we all got on very well. Politics was not a subject much discussed in front of us children that I recall.

So it took years before politics meant anything to me. By this time my mother voted occasionally, my father still never.

We wouldn’t have known the outcome of an election until the local weekly newspaper, the Mid-Ulster Mail, published the results the next weekend. And it was on this newspaper that I began my journalist career.

Only then did politics begin to feature in my life and only then did I understand the different parties and why Protestants and Catholics voted according to religion – more or less.

Decades of Ulster politics later have moulded our province in ways we could never have imagined.

Lots of women are running for election now and one in particular butts in so often I’m left wondering has she forgotten which constituency she belongs to.

Mary Lou McDonald, of course, is Sinn Fen’s president with her seat in the Dail.

She’s often up north at the right hand of Michelle O’Neill whose seat is here as she is our deputy First Minister.

With Mary Lou in tow Ms O’Neill can scarcely get a word in. In fact Mary Lou had to leave the Dail recently as she overstepped the mark a bit. She does talk a lot, so much in fact Michelle’s mouth occasionally sets in a straight line when she’s around.

It would be very difficult for anyone to make Mary Lou pipe down.

Mary Lou can’t help herself electioneering for her party and at a lunch recently in the Titanic area of Belfast she declared the big priority for SF after this election is to `get back to work quickly so that the Executive can get money into people’s pockets to help with the cost of living – the big issue for families’.

And so maybe Ms McDonald will tell us where all this money will come from since our province has had to be re-built after the terrors reigned on it by the IRA over the decades – money we could have done with to support families and create employment.

Ms McDonald comes from a well-off background and such people often talk the talk but produce very little. For example she talks about the ‘cost-of-living is election’s (here) big issue’. You could blow me down with a feather.

I’m a journalist having covered many elections in my long career and that mantra is in the DNA of all would-be politicians. But does anything ever get better? In my experience it’s the ordinary people who work their socks off to improve things.

Some politicians like to take the credit for improvements but there’s scarcely a politician from any party I would vote for on the strength of what he or she promises or demands.

Every election I keep saying I will vote but things must improve. I could count on one hand the politicians I know of who have made a difference over the years.

There are some dedicated ones, equally there are the indifferent ones. We have more women seeking election this time round. We demand they keep their promises.