Anyone who takes the trouble to read this editorial column has – almost by definition – a healthy interest in what’s going on in the Limerick Leader’s circulation area. Those with a high sense of engagement with their community are also the people who can be relied upon to use their vote in next Friday’s local and European elections. We confidently expect that they will also take the time to read the comprehensive guide to those elections, which is distributed as a supplement in this week’s paper. Readers might feel that a 40-page guide will provide more than enough information about any election, but we are happy to point out that there is another, even more detailed source, which offers voters an unprecedented level of guidance on the best candidate for them.
A strong recommendation for a website other than our own is not normally part of the remit for the Limerick Leader’s weekly editorial column, but we’re pleased to make an exception this week.
That is because a pioneering new website, WhichCandidate.ie, concerns itself with the choice on offer to voters in the six electoral areas which will elect 40 members to the new joint authority. It has been developed at the University of Limerick by politics lecturer Dr Rory Costello, who explains more about the thinking behind it on page 3 of our election guide.
In a nutshell, though, every candidate has been asked to provide their views on a selection of key local issues. The voter then makes his or her own choice and through the magic of technology is presented with a ranking of the candidates whose views are closest to their own.
It if sounds like a bit of a gimmick, it absolutely is not. Rather, it is nothing less than a very useful addition to improving the quality of local democracy.
Some of the questions asked are contentious and in a way it is a touch surprising that so many candidates have volunteered their views, but it is also refreshing. The point is made in the introduction to our election supplement that it is vital for Limerick voters to select the best possible line-up of councillors. Those who agree with this assertion have now been provided with an extremely valuable tool to run the rule over the candidates.
Among the issues on which they are asked to agree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree or offer no opinion are the following.
n Revitalising Limerick city centre is important for the county as a whole, so this should be the priority for the Council.
n Political parties should be required to have a balance of male and female candidates in local elections.
n The long-term unemployed should work for the local authority in return for benefits.
n More schools in Limerick should be removed from the patronage of the Catholic Church.
n Ghost estates should be demolished.
n One-off rural housing is damaging to the countryside.
n Priority should be given to building more social housing in Limerick.
No apologies are made if some are these statements are designed to challenge the fence-sitters fearful of alienating potential voters by disagreeing with them on anything. That’s a good thing because the new council needs people of conviction, not time-servers unable to deliver a strong opinion.
Less than half of the candidates have, at the time of writing, provided their opinions. We hope that number grows before polling day next Friday.The more informed the electorate, the better the choices they’ll make. And when it comes to public representatives, Limerick needs good choices now more than ever.