Belfast Telegraph

Watch: 'It's a terrible time of year to do this'... Belfast shoppers have no appetite for Christmas election

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

At the front of Belfast City Hall, a crane is being used to hang Christmas decorations.

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Giant baubles are being placed in the branches of autumnal trees around the gardens. The traditional Continental Market will start to take shape.

Though Halloween is not quite with us yet, preparations are under way for the festive season.

A time for presents, crackers, tinsel... and a general election.

It doesn't sound quite right, and on the streets of Belfast yesterday shoppers were more interested in building up an appetite for turkey and mince pies rather than another trip to the polling stations.

Is Northern Ireland ready to embrace election fever again or have we had enough?

Sally Kirk was blunt in her answer and said we'll all be too wrapped up in Christmas.

Jim and Elaine Bradley
Jim and Elaine Bradley
Jack and Jill Iredale
Robert Concannon
Margaret Compston and Eddie McNally
Mervyn Neill

"It's a terrible time of year for this. Is there anybody worth going out in the cold for?" she said.

"I suppose this all has to be sorted some time, but Christmas, well, it isn't the best time for all of this."

Jim and Elaine Bradley were also unimpressed at being asked to vote again, and at that time of the year.

"It's alright for people like us, but probably older people, with the bad weather, they might not be able to get out," said Jim.

Elaine felt it was probably only the Brexit issue that would move people to get out and vote.

She said: "That's what all this is about so maybe with the Brexit thing going on people might be more inclined to go out and vote, but the timing isn't great with everything people are trying to do over Christmas."

That was the problem for another lady, who said "people are just far too busy" at that time of the year.

"People are so fed up with the whole thing.

"So many people voted to remain and to be honest it doesn't seem to matter who you vote for as politicians have shown us they will do their own thing anyway," she said. "The weather will be awful, people won't be too fussed on making an effort."

Robert Cohannon understood the reasons for a general election, but also felt a couple of weeks before Christmas wasn't an appropriate time. "This should be done like a referendum. People were misled in the first place, told a pack of lies," he said.

"Now they see the realisation of what they were voting for and they should be able to vote again on that. Not in a general election.

"But that's where we're at. There are now another three million young people who will be eligible to vote and that could be crucial. It's their future and young people should be able to decide what way they want their country to go.

"But without a doubt they shouldn't be doing this at Christmas time. It's not what people want at that time of the year and I'm sure a lot of people will have better things to do.

"I can't see people turning out in big numbers. I probably will vote, but the turnout will be well down on what it should be across the UK. This is an important stage in our history and I think too many are trying to rush it through too quickly."

For Jill Iredale, the news of a December election came as great news. She'll be out of the country.

She said: "That's super, I'll be in Israel! I will vote, but at least I'll miss all the coverage."

Visiting Belfast with Jill, Jack Iredale, from Wakefield in Yorkshire wasn't so sure about voting.

"People are looking forward to other things at Christmas time," he said.

Margaret Compston said a general election couldn't be further from her mind. "There's plenty already on my plate without a general election thrown on it too," she said.

But she will turn out to cast her vote.

"Women died for the vote so I'll be voting," she said. "It's just not a great time of year to have to be bothered."

Her brother, Eddie McNally, is on a visit home from Australia and is another who is grateful to be flying out of the country before election day.

"I'm getting on a plane next week and that's a good thing. This Brexit stuff is a mess."

He had one idea that the UK might want to consider to make sure everyone takes elections seriously. "In Australia we have compulsory voting," he said. "If you don't vote you get fined. If everybody had to vote you'd get a truer result."

Mervyn Neill said that while he is pleased to see something happen to shift the Brexit stalemate, there is a problem with the timing of an election. "Boris Johnson must be very confident he's going to get the numbers to get the Conservative majority back again," he said.

"I know something had to be done, but there's a reason why they never have elections at this time of year. People don't need any more of this. Will it help sort out Brexit? No."

No matter how serious the subject, you'll always find a bit of Belfast wit creeping in.

"You know the saying like turkeys voting for Christmas?" quips one as he rushes past. "Well this will be like a Christmas vote for turkeys."

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