What Really Counts
Travelling Home2vote in what I hope will be the last referendum where the diaspora are unable to access postal voting, I decided to step inside the Count Centre in AIT to see how the count was going.
Unlike a local or general election, there was no hype or activity in the giant room. Counters counted and RTE’s Ciaran Mullooly his cameraman and a guard waited quietly for the result.
I arrived in time for the first count in which I am sure was a very long day counting thousands of votes and the stadium was in complete silence. No stranger to presidential elections in AIT, I had lost two Student Union elections in the past and was surprised to see how quiet the arena was during an election.
There was no International Arena in AIT in my day and I was thrilled to see inside the fantastic facility, one of many new buildings added to the campus over the last decade.
The Irish President is an important figurehead to the diaspora and international community even if the election failed to attract as many people Home2vote as the last two referendums.
Returning home to Athlone for the weekend, I was delighted to see my alma mater looking so well, people counted the votes in an election where six candidates ran for president but with a six lane track they could have ran a very different race in the Count Centre.
What does the International Arena represent for the Midland graduates who run in the future, will they travel far from home without a postal vote? Will we send them far in international competitions and will we attract athletes to Athlone from away?
The first picture I saw inside the International Arena was of someone breaking the indoor 4 mile record. When I first arrived in the college, staff ran around the car park during lunch time and now people set records in Athlone and I was very proud to see how far the town has come.
This is not the same Ireland I left in 2012, this is not the same AIT I left in 2004, this empty building, full of potential and opportunity where I am told children’s birthday parties entertain children through activity, offers opportunities for all of us to run.
Most candidates talked of the diaspora and international business and some talked about tackling obesity and one candidate had encouraged many people to run and turn Darkness into Light so maybe we will see more people running for the Áras in the future.
Entrusted in my suitcase as I left Athlone were two bottles of Sean’s Bar whiskey, one for myself and one for a drinks company where I have taught English in the past. A premium drinks company that is lacking a whiskey and might enjoy hearing about the origins of Whiskey on the banks of Lough Ree.
The diaspora are ambassadors for Ireland, all over the world, let’s share the water of life, that aqua vitae as people come to AITIA to run and have fun and hopefully the diaspora will never have to board another flight when looking to vote at home.
CONNECTED: We Like, Follow and Share
In a world of instant communications, the Irish abroad are able to like and follow what is happening at home and I was trying to keep in touch with a local organiser in the Midlands to see how Athlone was set for canvassing for President Higgins when all of a sudden his father died.
His father, a close family friend was buried on election day changing the significance of the date completely. They say life is what happens when making plans and I guess what counts most is not who runs for president and represents us internationally but enjoying all the things we have at home, spending time with family and friends and promoting our community when abroad.
The power of the president is not who follows him but who he inspires to lead. What generation will take his example and emulate him and the five decades served in Irish politics promoting Irish art and culture.
If you are interested in seeing a different international arena, talk to me, Madrid offers multiple opportunities for people looking to see another country. Madrid offers many English teaching jobs available for native English speaking graduates.
Take that degree and run, see another country and culture and be proud of the place that offered education and athletics, the world is your oyster, on your marks, get set, go.