After the votes are counted…
A couple of years ago, an old mucker of mine Katie Hannon wrote a great book about the Irish political process. The Naked Politician looked at just why hundreds and hundreds of seemingly sane men and women would go through …
A couple of years ago, an old mucker of mine Katie Hannon wrote a great book about the Irish political process. The Naked Politician looked at just why hundreds and hundreds of seemingly sane men and women would go through the often demeaning motions of seeking a vote from their fellow citizens who were often happy to say one thing to their face and do something else entirely in the voting booth. It was a great yarn (especially the bits about Jim McDaid) which proves once and for all that the Irish political animal is one quare beast.
I kept thinking about Katie’s book during last night’s RTE 1 re-up on the 2007 general election and not just because the two titles were first cousins. Watching The Naked Election made you realise that most of those who stand for election must really be plain daft. Be it the would-be Progressive Democrat TD Frank McNamara (would you vote for a lightweight version of Richard Clayderman? Only 474 voters in Dublin South Central were prepared to do so) or Niall O’Brolcháin (the then Green Party mayor of Galway), here was ample proof that you needed more than a firm handshake and a brass neck when you went on the Irish hustings.
You also needed a sense of the ridiculous, which O’Brolcháin clearly doesn’t appear to possess. If it was mind-boggling enough to be having difficulties persuading the voters of Galway West to vote Green at a time when their water was undrinkable, O’Brolcháin seemed totally at a loss when faced with common-or-garden electioneering high jinks. The candidate always looked awkward on camera, none more so than when he was facing an audience of senior citizens with a tambourine in his paw. That his then leader Trevor Sargent was extremely happy to stand by his side, belting out “The Wild Rover” on an acoustic guitar like an eco-friendly Damien Dempsey, probably still features in O’Brolcháin’s nightmares.
But it was perhaps more telling to see how some of the others profiled in this documentary possessed a blinding conviction in their own chances, a belief which persisted even when it became obvious that they were not destined to become members of the 30th Dail. Sinn Fein man Pearse Doherty, for instance, was spinning some semblance of sucess even after the seat he had targetted had gone Fianna Fail’s way. He probably still finds it hard to accept after all his Bebo, YouTube and conventional canvassing that the people of Donegal had said no to him.
He should take stock from the reactions of such battle-hardened war-horses as Jackie Healy-Rae and Mary O’Rourke. That pair may have a good day in May, but they both knew it could have quite easily gone the other way too. After all, you don’t get to be a gnarled Irish political veteran without getting a kick in the arse now and again from the electorate.
There’s probably a whole lot more on tape where all that came from too, which will hopefully give some of the RTE mandarins a couple of ideas about future programming. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling the license fee would be better spent on this. More Richard Crowley and Sean O’Rourke please and less Brian Ormond and Charity You’re A Star.