Is there such a thing as the rural vote?
The recent outcome of the Brexit referendum might, on first glance, show a difference between rural and urban voting.
Geographically, Scotland, London, and Norther Ireland voted to stay in the EU, but outside the capital, every English region voted in the majority to leave.
According to pundits, the divide was more along prosperity and education lines – the better off and more educated, the more likely you were to vote Remain.
In Ireland, however, the rural vote has been shown to have some teeth. In the recent February general election, Fine Gael’s ‘Keep the Recovery Going’ tagline failed to resonate with people living in rural areas. For many, it was a sign of the disconnect between Dublin, where things had noticeably picked up in 2015, and rural areas where, even still, there aren’t too many signs of a recovery.
That loud rural voice seemingly only roars in general and local elections, however, with low rural turnout a feature of once-off referendums. A sign of another disconnect maybe?
So, who is speaking for us and to us specifically? After the chaos of our general election vote, a group of independent TDs – Denis Naughten (Roscommon), Mattie McGrath (Tipperary), Dr Michael Harty (Clare), Noel Grealish (Galway West) and Michael Collins (Cork South West) – came together in a loose so-called rural alliance. The new government was formed, and that was the last mention I heard of of rural issues.
Apart from broadband, where the rollout of the National Broadband Planproceeds at a snail’s pace.
What now? It would be a pity if we have to wait until the next election before rural voices are heard, and rural views sought. Given the roasting delivered in our general election to the mainstream parties, it will be interesting to see if anyone fills the identified gap in rural voice – that of representing our diverse interests which are no less valid than those of our urban neighbouts.