It’s a uniquely Irish concept. In other countries, parties brag about how well their candidate is doing. Not in Ireland. In Ireland, candidates, especially ones defending a seat, play up how desperate things are, how bad the campaign is going, how “the seat is gone”. There is nothing a candidate hates more than people saying she’s a dead cert, because in Ireland that’s political death. More people have gone into an election as the dead cert and come out with less votes than Gary Glitter at a National Association of Creches AGM.
It’s all to do with the second guessing poker nature of the Single Transferable Vote system. STV is a logical, rational and fair voting system which gives voters a wider choice than almost any voting system in the world. It asks voters to select their candidates in order of preference. As a result, there’s little chance of wasting one’s vote on an unelectable candidate.
But it never expected that it would have to deal with the Irish psyche, and voters who don’t just consider who they’d like to elect, but who they think other people are going to elect too, and so discount their own vote and transfer their vote to their second choice in the hope of getting a second bite of the cherry. It’s hardly surprising, as this is exactly the same way Irish people choose their third level educational future through the Central Applications Office. They’re asked to pick what course they really want, and instead enter what course they think they’ll get, and are then disappointed when they miss the course they actually wanted in the first place. They then vote the same way.
As a result, you have party voters who decide that Party X’s candidate A is a definite, and so instead gives their first preference to candidate A’s running mate, to give her a chance at taking a second seat for the party. The problem is that large numbers of candidate A’s loyal voters are all thinking the same thing, and so the running mate gets elected and candidate A is surprisingly defeated to the shock of all, with voters looking blankly at each other with a “Jaysus, if I’d only known. Sure everybody I know said they wanted him in!”
How do you prevent it? Vote for your favourite candidate first. It really is that simple. Really.
It’s a hard wired genetic response, whether it is to exploiting natural resources offshore or fracking or even postcodes. A section of the country just can’t help itself, and comes out in opposition to everything. There is even a standard pattern:
1. A proposal is made by a company or body. The benefits in terms of revenue or employment tend to be so over-hyped as to trigger scepticism everywhere, even amongst people in favour of the project. Why do we have to oversell everything?
2. In the area concerned, muttering starts, normally led by a local nut who votes No in every referendum and disconcertingly mentions the Bilderberg Group and fluoride in every conversation. But he’s retired with time on his hands and is a wiz with mail merge, having the database from previous local campaigns such as “Stop Dublin stealing our clouds!” and “No to WiFi near St. Enda’s. There are children there for God’s sake!”
3. The usual malcontents, Sebastian from South Dublin, furious with Daddy for running away with Olga from Olgastan and making Mummy cry and tell them that “they have to be the man of the house now” after a bottle of Tia Maria during Murder She Wrote, arrive to “smash capitalism” (Daddy was a capitalist) and stand up for the “ordinary people” in the area.
4. The local opposition TDs and councillors start calling for an independent public inquiry because that’s what they always call for, and it’s not like they have to fund it out of their expenses, is it?
5. The planning process gets bogged down in court injunctions and walkouts and demands for a tribunal into the planning process. Vague allegations of corruption are applauded by the usual paranoid mob. The integrity of the process hinges entirely on whether it agrees with the No side.
6. Planning permission is granted. It is appealed to An Bord Plenala. They approve it. It is appealed to the High Court, then the Supreme Court, then the European Court. Judicial corruption is alleged every step of the way. Huge legal bills are run up by the protesters who then complain of being economically ruined by huge legal bills they ran up travelling through a legal system they “knew” to be corrupt in the first place.
7. The opposition wins the general election, and sets up a public inquiry because it has nothing better to do. The opponents of the project do not contest the election declaring the political process corrupt and “exclusionary to ordinary people”. You know, like voters. On polling day a group of young protesters meet to beam positive energy at the ballot boxes as they are carried out by the Guards.
8. The public inquiry approves the project. The protesters accuse it of being corrupt, and announce a campaign of civil disobedience, which seems to involve a lot of interpretive dance and giant Macnas style heads. One protester sprains his wrist when a giant Che Guevara head falls on him. He sues the state for not banning giant heads of South American communists.
9. The project starts with much civil disobedience, delaying the project’s completion by years. When it is completed, and starts providing tax revenue to the state much later than planned because of the delays, the people who delayed it are first in the queue with demands as to how the money should be spent.
10. 20 years later, when the project is no longer viable, the people who originally opposed it demand it be subsidised by the state as a vital contribution to the local economy.
“We’re not taking it any more! It’s time the country be taken back by the ordinary people! Feck the bankers and the political parties! It’s time for a country based on social justice and equality and housing and health and education as rights! Yes to free healthcare! Yes to free education! Yes to…sorry, say that again…you want to pay for free healthcare by doing what?…means testing children’s allowance….now, hold on a minute there…putting Capital Gains Tax on private residences…wait there one minute now…the rich should pay higher taxes, but not ordinary people like me, yes, I know I bought my house for €300k and it’s now worth €500k, but that’s MY MONEY….tax MY profit???….to fund free healthcare and social justice?…….get away from MY money, d’ya hear, that €200k profit is MY money, not yours! Get your stinking thieving hands off my filthy lucre!”
Repost: Faux indignation is his trump card. He’s constantly “not apologising to anyone” for having the courage to bring up the need to protect puppies from being put in blenders, or children from being fed gravel laced with arsenic. HE.WON’T.APOLOGISE. Oh no.
Sitting on the government backbenches, where he can’t attack people on real issues because he keeps voting for them, he’s desperate to get media attention. So desperate that he doesn’t mind coming across as Arthur Daley sincere or just a brain damaged moron. Every issue he and the oily urchin wannabe who’s his parliamentary assistant consider running with has to pass one test: will it get me in the papers/on the telly? That’s all that matters. It could be creating a National Bosco Museum or providing a box of After Eights to every pensioner, it doesn’t matter. The entire process hinges on “Look at me!”
The gas thing is that he has no interest in politics whatsoever. He’s only in this party because someone asked him first. Fascist? Communist? Conservative? Liberal? These are just words. If launching a passionate defence of Lebensraum will get him onto the Marian panel, he’ll be polishing his boots faster than you can say “Jawohl, mein fuhrer!”
Every time you see or hear him about to speak, you give him a chance. He’s an important senior politician, a leader in our country. His opinion matters.
Forty five seconds in, you’re flicking over to something else. Anything else. It’s not that you disagree with him or what he’s saying, after all, there’s some pleasure to be had screaming “You’re a f**king eejit!” at the telly or the radio. That would mean he’s actually said something.
No, it’s worse than that.
Every single time he says nothing. Every single time. He talks and talks and you can hear the cogs in the brain lining up the next trite offend-nobody vague platitude into the breech to be fired at us.
He’s like a football pundit who doesn’t really have any interest in football.
It’s not lies. It’s not offensive. It’s just nothing. It’s all a bit of a chore, one of those offshore gas drilling platforms that has to burn off the excess gas every while, only with him it’s words, all safe and harmless and meaningless.
We’d actually be better served if he just read out funny words he came across in the dictionary, or told us about an episode of “Elementary” he watched recently, or rolled up a shirt sleeve and showed us a rash and asked us what caused that, do we think?
Envelope? What envelope?
He’s not personally corrupt. Oh, he’s sat down with developers and followed up their queries with planners, but he does that for ordinary punters too. Nothing wrong with asking a legitimate question for a constituent, as long as you don’t try to get the planner to do anything wrong, and he doesn’t.
Elected to the council after the carry-on of the 1980s and 1990s, he doesn’t get approached for “favours”. He’s the new breed of the party’s councillor who wrinkles his nose at reading about yet another former party elected rep being done for corruption.
Yet don’t ask him to fight corruption. Don’t ask him to report anything he thinks is dodgy, and he sees enough of it, to the Guards or anyone else, because that’s just not done. He’s been known to turn on his heel walking into a toilet at the the council, when he sees a colleague receiving “papers” from a developer just before a vote.
In fact, that’s the thing. He actually spends time trying to avoid learning about corruption, because he can’t report what he doesn’t know.
“Trains to where, judge? Auschwitz? I just set the timetables. Couldn’t tell you what was in them. Was it strange that they were coming back empty? Do you know, I never thought to ask.”
1. An individual in a public/NGO organisation is discovered to be on a Lotto style pay package.
2. Organisation initially tries to deem this a “private matter”. Is shouted down by public, stampeding backbench TDs and grassroots members.
3. Organisation admits truth. Suggests that no one in organisation can explain how salary came about. Suggestion that it was made by someone conveniently dead is a popular favourite.
4. Basic investigative techniques like inquiring from the bank who authorised the payments, and working backwards, are deemed “inappropriate”, which is one of the great Irish words.
5. The public get cranky over the idea that anyone can earn over €100k, on the basis that “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys rule” obviously does not apply in Ireland. (See Irish financial regulation, 1997-2011)
6. The story goes around and round in circles with the actual answer, who authorised this, never emerging. Public hearings seem to involve more windy grandstanding than actual specific questions.
7. Someone resigns on a Lotto style severance package.
8. The phrase “for legal reasons” (the other great Irish phrase) is bandied about to blur the situation. In a shock outcome, Learned Colleagues make a nice little earner on whole affair.
9. The organisation promises a new “robust” structure for salary/remuneration.
10. Rinse and repeat.
It has to be done. It is next to impossible to get elected to anything in Ireland unless the voters get a look at you like a prize nag at a mart, or at least get asked for a vote by one of your team. Personally. Having said that, there’s still a fair chance you’ll get the following on the doorstep:
1. I’m watching the rugby/hurling/soccer!
2. Not interested! *Door slams revealing pig ignorance of person in house*
3. I’m putting the child to bed!
4. Comes out of house two doors after missing you, and tries to make a big show of tearing up your leaflet and putting it in the recycling bin. The sharp canvasser his turns back before tearing starts, pretending not to see, turning back just as bin lid closes and issues a cheery “Hello!” to the grumpy amateur dramatist.
5. Says they won’t be voting for you, but is polite about it. You’d almost vote for them. One of the great mysteries to non-politicians: meeting a person who politely disagrees with you is not a bad thing.
6. Appoints themselves spokesperson for the entire street/estate and informs you that there are no votes for you here. Tell them that you’ve gotten a great response so far, and that maybe it’s “your fella” who should be worried, as they’re invariably a hack for the Shinners or the Alphabet Left who are great men altogether for the self-appointing.
7. The aul fella who is delighted to be talking to anyone. Spend the time. There’s only a single vote in it, but if you think talking to a lonely man for a few minutes is a bad use of your time you’ve no business being in politics.
8. The householder who is obviously so wealthy that they should be kind of embarrassed complaining to you about anything.
9. And, for 1000 points, the voter who complains that they never see any politicians, as you’re standing on their door.
He (and it does tend to be he) comes in all sorts of forms:
1. The Religious one. Probably the most honest of No voters, because he is often genuinely conflicted between his sense of compassion and his religious beliefs, including the guidance from his spiritual advisor. Yes, that’s right, the guy with the poster quoting scripture is the honest one.
2. The I Can’t Believe We’re Having This Debate one. The fella who suddenly realises The Gays are everywhere, and not apologising either. He just can’t understand why The Gays insist upon walking around in public everywhere being all gay. He knows he can’t call them “faggots” anymore, which he believes is a restriction of his freedom of speech. Where’s his referendum, he wonders. Most likely to use air quotes when saying “Marriage” and “Equality”. Got very excited when he heard/met a gay who was voting No. This gay fella is now the opening line in every conversation on the subject. Would be very upset if he thought that someone else thought he was gay. Believes that children can be “turned” gay, that gays are flighty and regard children as fashion accessories, that gays are out to “convert”, by force if necessary, and that there is a conspiracy to hide “the proven link” between gays and kiddie fiddlers.
3. The Needs A Technicality one. His gut has decided he’s voting No. Now he’s looking for a respectable reason to attach to it. Something about families, childen, stability, respect for the constitution, yeah, that’ll do. Most likely to start his position with “I’ve nothing against gays…”:
4. The Bastard. A tiny minority, in fairness. The guy who doesn’t actually care about religion, surrogacy, family units, any of that stuff. Knows that he will cause actual pain to other people by voting No, but does it all the same. Other people’s unhappiness? Not my problem.
There’s a weirdness to internal party elections, caused by the fact that it is wannabe politicians canvassing other wannabe politicians. That and the odd mix between inoffensive “I have to write something on the canvass card” blandness mixed with surreal claims of worthiness.
“I am passionately committed to this party (really?) and to serving the best interests of the party members. And my great grandfather shot an Englishman in 1919.”
The sheer terror of saying anything that might offend anyone who might not give you a 15th preference is palpable. If the canvass cards were scratch n’ sniff (remember them) it would be the odour of pure sweaty fear. It’s either stand by your cronies or your man is from the same county. Unless of course he’s contesting the same ward as you. Then he’s got “stories going around about him. You know. One of those fellas.” For the women it’s worse, trying to look attractive but not too attractive, putting up with the too-close talkers with porter on their breath and busy hands.
The younger candidates, desperately trying to look mature, turn up in suits and and constantly trying to get pictures of themselves with party luminaries to show they are moving in serious circles and are therefore serious themselves.
Unlike in other countries, where different factions fight it out based on their viewpoint of where they want society to go, this isn’t about direction of the party. This is about winning elections because they’re elections. The day after the election? Never you mind, that’s none of your business.