Editorial: ‘Voters must tread carefully in vital general election’

The last general election was dubbed by some as the «election nobody won» and it took us 70 days of talks to produce a ramshackle minority coalition Government. Against all predictions it has endured for the greater part of four years since taking office on May 6, 2016.

Its term coincided with many significant developments which impinged on Ireland. The unexpected Brexit Leave verdict landed with a thud just weeks later on Friday morning, June 24, 2016.

In November 2016 the apparent joke candidate, one Donald Trump, was elected president of the United States of America. Soon he was jolting the world’s economy with threats of a trade war with China and the European Union.

There were other threats to Ireland’s fragile return to prosperity after a bruising economic crash that had lasted a decade. There was our huge dependence on multinational firms’ taxes and the fallout from our EU and global laggard status in tackling global warming.

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Domestically, there was the dispiritingly slow progress in dealing with a housing and homeless crisis, and the continued inability to improve health services. There were the challenges of lopsided regional development and the urgent need to improve broadband and public transport.

Now, as we prepare go to the polls again, we face updated versions of all these big challenges. And much more as this list is far from exhaustive.

The good news over the past four years is that our rates of unemployment have continued to decline while economic growth has remained strong. The less reassuring news is that we have no guarantee these trends will continue.

Brexit has yet to bite. It only becomes a reality at the end of this month and a transition grace period will continue at least until the end of this year. Similarly, the risk of global trade turbulence persists and US voters go back to the polls this coming November to again choose their president. Instability in the Middle East also threatens oil prices.

So it is no resort to hyperbole to say the forthcoming general election has huge things at stake for every citizen. Now, more than ever before, we need stable and able government capable of meeting all these upcoming challenges.

It will certainly be a very noisy and boisterous campaign replete with unhelpful «political noise». The increasing importance of social media in our political communications compounds the risk of «fake news» and misleading spin.

It all adds up to a big challenge to voters to inform themselves and focus on the matters of key interest to them. In a busy, noisy world it is not always easy to keep abreast of the political issues. But it is vital that every citizen makes an effort to stand back, inform themselves, and assess things dispassionately.

We are on the cusp of the most important general election in a generation. Voters must tread carefully since their choice will influence not just their own futures, but the futures of the rising generations.

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