What the Children’s Referendum tells us about Irish Democracy.

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” Robert M. Hutchins.

With one of the lowest voter turnout rates of 34%, and a Saturday polling day; the Children’s Rights Referendum could become a political case study indicative of a growing threat to Irish democracy and ultimately the Irish State. There are, of course, many reasons why voter’s don’t make it to the polls to cast their vote, inconvenient day or time, prior engagements, confusion on the issues being voted, disillusionment with the system etc. But in the grand scale of things when we look at figures produced by the Freedom House organisation, not every citizen lives in a country with political freedom and civil liberties.

 Freedom House was set up in 1941 in America to monitor freedom levels across the world and believes freedom is possible only in democratic political environments where governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women ( www.freedomhouse.org ). They work with a very simple scale determining whether a state is considered free, partly free or not free ( click here for more details ).

 On this scale, not surprisingly Ireland is rated as possessing a free electoral system, top marks. However, on the decline list you will now find Greece with the following reason for the country slipping in the listings; 

“Greece’s political rights rating declined from 1 to 2 due the installation of an unelected
technocrat as prime minister following anti-austerity riots, and the growing influence of
outside entities over the country’s fiscal and economic policies.” (Freedom House, 2012, p21).

Are we on course to receive the same decline in freedom with this government at the helm?

Power is transferable, especially between the government, the state, its institutions, citizens and elements on the peripheral. If citizens relinquish their power by not voting in a democratic election, they risk transferring that power to another body, and as we have seen in our example of Greece above, other outside entities are only too ready to claim power from citizens in a country who don’t vote. 

Figures Demonstrating Freedom Around the World 2012.





 So the next time you’re contemplating whether to vote or not, remember the citizens around the world who don’t have the luxury of that choice. Also consider whether you are prepared to lose the democracy you already have, as imperfect as it maybe, it will be too late when it’s gone and consider this;

“In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.”

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