Adrian Kavanagh, 17 December 2010
With a general election expected to take place in Ireland sometime between the end of January and the middle of April, the first few months of 2011 should see most geographers – and not just the elections nerds like myself – taking a greater interest in all things electoral. It is the one time that all adults, aged 18 and over – or at least all Irish and UK nationals – get a chance to have a say in terms of what shape the next government of this fine state will take and on what key political decisions may be taken over the coming five years. It is an opportunity, but also a responsility, that all voters should take; so make sure you are registered to vote!
Irish elections are a fascinating laboratory for geographical research with questions of space, place and environment pervading all aspects of the electoral system, whether it be the manner in which electoral boundaries are drawn and redrawn, the manner in which political parties select their election candidates and manage their campaigns, and the extent to which Irish voters tend to vote local, favouring the “local woman or man” over and above candidates based in more far-flung areas within the constituency as tantamount to a friends and neighbours effect. A geographical eye is of course key to better understanding these practices and processes, offering soemthing different to the analysis offered by those in the fields of political and government studies.
And it is that “something different” that is particularly required today, at a time when the efficacy of the Irish political system has been seriously called to account and when new views on how to shape Irish politics are being sought. In the ongoing debate on this, as evidenced particularly in the ideas and discussions on the politicalreform.ie site, there is an opportunity there for the critical geographical eye to also be brought to bear on these and allow geographers to have a role to play in the reshaping of Irish politics for the better.