Bertie Ahern has hinted that the General Election will take place on a Thursday, and possibly a few weeks after the most commonly predicted date of 18th May. The folks at Irishelection.com are exercised enough to launch a petition calling for weekend voting. Many people might not remember that the last time we had polling on a Saturday was for the second Nice referendum in 2002. At the time the Government were pretty happy to admit that this timing was designed to “facilitate higher youth turnout“. What they didn’t mention, of course, was that they were operating on the assumption that a higher youth turnout would favour the ‘Yes’ vote they were promoting.
Like anybody else, I love to say I told you so, so I refer back to what I said to a special session of the National Forum on Europe on “Young people and the EU” in October 2002:
The Taoiseach’s commitment to youth participation in democracy would be demonstrated if he had weekend voting for future elections, Mr Ryan Meade of the Green Party told the forum.
For years, requests for weekend voting had fallen on deaf ears, he said, and one could only assume that this was because the Government was “not keen to see the results of greater youth participation in this context”.
At least, that’s how I was quoted in the Irish Times (subscription required), I can’t remember if I phrased it any better or worse than that. The next poll, the local and European elections, were held in 2004 on a Friday (much of the rest of Europe voted over the weekend), and now we’re back to Thursday elections. Obviously Bertie is not in a mood to “facilitate higher youth turnout” this year.
Speaking personally, the most backed date of Friday 18th May wouldn’t suit me at all, but neither would any delay. How about Saturday 12th May?