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For a while now I have restrained myself from talking about politics on this blog, but since the 2011 General Election is drawing near and I feel very strongly about exercising my right to vote, I have decided to get my thoughts together on our prospective candidates, and what I can find out about them via their online presence.

I work away from home between the hours of 8am to 7pm each weekday so I am unlikely to be canvassed at all during this election. I read a lot of blogs however and I’m a Twitter addict, so I just wanted to see how these candidates have done in reaching out to the likes of me. What I have found is rather uninspiring.

Using TheJournal.ie’s excellent roundup of the candidates, here are some of my impressions.

  • Fianna Fáil (Michael Ahern and Kevin O’Keeffe) don’t have much of a social media policy at all. No Twitter, no videos, no blogs, just static web-pages and a Facebook account for O’Keeffe. Their candidate web-pages are devoid of anything that might persuade me to change my mind.
  • Fine Gael is more interesting. All of the candidates have a live video. (Pa O’Driscoll had one but for some reason it has been taken down). David Stanton’s video does not inspire a huge amount of confidence. It could have been a lot better in my opinion. I felt as if I was reading his CV and I didn’t get any feeling for what drives him and his passion for change. This is a potential government minister, so I would have expected a bit more drive. Tom Barry’s video is better, hitting the point on the main points of his candidacy. All three candidates have Twitter streams with Pa O’Driscoll leading by miles in terms of engagement and David Stanton saying aloof from any interaction with the great unwashed. Tom Barry shouldn’t have bothered with Twitter, given tweets such as the following: “Thanks to the canvass crews out over the weekend! Ye are pure marters for the cause out in that rain!” David StantonPa O’Driscoll and Tom Barry all have passable blogs.
  • Now we get to Labour. Sean Sherlock is engaging with people on Twitter but he has no video that I could find. His website is also, how do I put it, parochial. Here is a guy who could possibly find himself in the cabinet and yet he is campaigning on the subject of local roads and rezoning. Honestly, I’d prefer if these guys started thinking about Ireland and less about the parish pump. John Mulvihill has another parochial website, a Twitter stream (not engaging), and no video to give us an impression of what he is like. I am leaning towards Labour in this election but neither of the candidates inspire me with much confidence.

From here on in we are dealing with smaller parties and independent candidates. None of them have ever served as a TD and they have fairly low profiles. So you would expect them to be using every media outlet, including social media, to sell their message. Right?

  • Sandra McLellan, Sinn Féin’s candidate has no website or video or Twitter account, so apart from their policies which I think are woefully ignorant of basic economics and belong to the 19th Century, I know very little else about her.
  • Malchy Harty of the Green Party is a photographer, but he fails to put up a video of himself to tell us why we should vote for him. No blog (just a static web-page) and no Twitter. I will grant that he has a somewhat less parochial vision, but that’s about it. Very little to go on here.
  • Paul O’Neill has a website and a video. You actually get to see what this guy is thinking and what he is interested in doing. No Twitter though, no blogging and nothing in his Facebook page that I can see.
  • Paul Burke also has a static website and a video (I had to do a bit of rummaging to find it) which is quite good except for the fact that “Independent” is spelt incorrectly in the title. I find the policies here a bit wishy washy. He wants change but I don’t get a strong sense of vision around it.
  • Claire Cullinane has a static website and audio stream to help her outline her policies and a Facebook page where we find that she has been educated in the University of Life (hmm). No Twitter and no blogging – just a static web-page. Again, the policies seem quite vague. I’m not sure what I would be voting for.
  • Patrick Bullman has just a static web-page where he outlines his political philosophy. Not much else to go on.

So, what do I know? Fine Gael have definitely tried the hardest to engage with social media, Fianna Fail are a write-off, Labour are somewhat disappointing, and only a handful of independents or smaller party candidates have done very much at all to raise their profiles. While this is not the only information I will take into account when making my vote, it is interesting nonetheless.

Update: In an earlier version of this posting I wrote that Tom Barry didn’t have a blog and that based on his Twitter comments he shouldn’t have bothered to write one either. I subsequently found his blog and I need to, how do you say – eat my words. You live and learn I guess.

stoning

DERMOT AHERN: Tommy Tiernan, son of Deuteronomy of Gath.

TOMMY TIERNAN: Do I say ‘yes’?

SEAN ARDAGH, BOBBY AYLWARD, THOMAS BYRNE, SEAN CONNICK, BRENDAN KENNEALLY, DARRAGH O’BRIEN, NOEL TREACY : Yes.

TOMMY: Yes.

DERMOT: You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering the name of our Lord, and so, as a blasphemer,…

CROWD: Ooooh!

DERMOT: …you are to be stoned to death.

CROWD: Ahh!

TOMMY: Look. I– I’d had a lovely gig, and all I said to my audience was, ‘That piece of legislation would make Jehovah piss himself laughing.’

CROWD: Oooooh!

DERMOT: Blasphemy! He’s said it again!

CROWD: Yes! Yes, he did! He did!…

DERMOT: Did you hear him?!

CROWD: Yes! Yes, we did! We did!…

WOMAN #1: Really!

[silence]

DERMOT: Are there any women here today?

CROWD: No. No. No. No…

DERMOT: Very well. By virtue of the authority vested in me under the 2009 Defamation Act

[NUN stones TOMMY]

TOMMY: Oww! Lay off! We haven’t started yet!

DERMOT: Come on! Who threw that? Who threw that stone? Was it you Senator Norris? Come on.

CROWD: She did! She did! He did! He! He. He. Him. Him. Him. Him. He did.

NUN: Sorry. I thought we’d started.

DERMOT: Go to the back.

NUN: Oh, dear.

DERMOT: Always one, isn’t there? Now, where were we?

TOMMY: Look. I don’t think it ought to be blasphemy, just saying ‘Jehovah’.

CROWD: Oooh! He said it again! Oooh!…

DERMOT: You’re only making it worse for yourself!

TOMMMY: Making it worse?! How could it be worse?! Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!

CROWD: Oooooh!…

DERMOT: I’m warning you. If you say ‘Jehovah’ once more– [MR. A MATTHEWS stones DERMOT]

DERMOT: Right. Who threw that?

[silence]

DERMOT: Come on. Who threw that?

CROWD: She did! It was her! He! He. Him. Him. Him. Him. Him. Him.

DERMOT: Was it you?

MR A. MATTHEWS (wearing a false beard): Yes.

DERMOT: Right!

MR. A. MATTHEWS: Well, you did say ‘Jehovah’.

CROWD: Ah! Ooooh!…

[CROWD stones MR. A. MATTHEWS]

DERMOT: Stop! Stop, will you?! Stop that! Stop it! Now, look! No one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle! Do you understand?! Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear, even if they do say ‘Jehovah’.

CROWD: Ooooooh!…

[CROWD stones DERMOT]

WOMAN #1: Good shot!

[clap clap clap]

(via Monty Python’s Life of Brian)

Fantasy Section

Our prime minister has his own special place on the bookshelves…

It’s not such big news considering the global situation, but Ireland’s fabled “Celtic Tiger” got shot a few months ago. Shot, gutted, skinned, skewered and then roasted. Like an express train travelling at 200kph towards a half-finished bridge, everyone saw it coming, but few dared to scream halt. The whole country was complicit in an unprecedented property scam. Ireland, for a while, became the land of the golden SUV. People were taking four holidays a year. You were measured by the size of your kitchen extension.

And all this time, the government was rolling it in. Larging it up. The cash was there from increased taxes and almost full-employment, so why not give this nation of habitual complainers the services they always wanted? Every spare penny was spent on cushioning: padding out the public services, propping up the salaries, silencing discontent with cash. Nobody complained. How could they? Nobody, after all, likes a party pooper. 

But then, in 2007, the property market crashed. Crash. Bang. Wallop. Thud. Every month since then, less and less money has flowed in as waves of construction workers and their dependents find themselves out of a job. The Irish Government, with no money stored away for a rainy day, is now broke. Officially, indisputably, skint.

And yet, the public expectation is that the Celtic Tiger services stay exactly the same. That’s the public for you and who can blame it? You fight hard to get your privileges, and damned if you are not going to put up a fight if someone tries to take them away. 

You would think, in a situation such as we find ourselves in today, that the political classes might get together to figure out what needs to be done. All the parties – government, opposition, everyone. Get the best administrators, the most capable leaders, the most innovative thinkers, and put together a plan that hurts like hell, but eventually gets the country out of the mess it now finds itself in. 

Instead, what we find is political point-scoring on a massive scale. The entire opposition has decided that siding with the populace is the way to go. That sympathising with Mr and Mrs Murphy on Leitrim St is going to solve the countries problems. That blame is better than solution finding. That it is better to seize the opportunity now to get elected than to be constructive and engaged in solving this overwhelmingly bad situation. 

Well, oppositiony politiciany folks – we need your rampant opportunism now like a chasm in the head. Unless you start telling us how you are going to solve the political crisis by making deep, painful cuts in public expenditure or increasing taxes, could I ask you to fuck off and leave the professionals to it?

There. Rant over.

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