Faces of things to come at election poster exhibition

Show at National Print Museum contains mixture of serious, eye-catching and bizarre

Alan Kinsella and Dr Ciaran Swan's exhibition 'what you maybe meant to keep' looks at Irish politics through the ages. It is running in the National Print Museum in Dublin.


A fascinating glimpse at what our current political leaders looked like and what they aspired to when they were starting off on the rocky road to power is just one of the attractions of an exhibition opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night.

The exhibition containing a comprehensive collection of election material going back more than four decades. Entitled What You Maybe Meant to Keep , it is on display at the National Print Museum at Beggars Bush in Dublin.

One of the pieces of election literature on display from 1982 is a stirring address from 27-year-old Workers Party candidate Eamon Gilmore calling on the workers of the country to unite and transform the system.

A range of election literature from 1982 includes material from Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey, Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald and Labour Party deputy leader Barry Desmond.

Alan Kinsella, who supplied much of the material for the exhibition, said he started collecting election literature in 1982 when he was aged 12. “Barry Desmond was outside my local polling station in Deansgrange and I got him to sign a polling card. That was the start of my collection.”

Dr Ciarán Swan, the other organiser, who works in the area of political design and identity, pointed to the sophistication of the Fine Gael election literature in the Garret FitzGerald era. He said that by contrast, the Labour Party literature was very traditional, even in the presidential election of 1990 when Mary Robinson became the first non-Fianna Fáil president, and in the famous Spring-tide election of 1992, when the party made a huge breakthrough.

The exhibition contains a mixture of the serious, the eye-catching and the truly bizarre. An election poster from 1954 has Eamon de Valera promising “better times and lower taxes” and it encourages voters “Don’t stop half way. Keep going with Fianna Fáil.”

In contrast, three pieces of election literature from Alan Shatter, currently embroiled in a long-running political controversy, are highly individualistic. One of them features the Dublin South TD dressed up like a Star Trek cast member.

A beer mat featuring Lucinda Creighton, a Fianna Fáil race- day promotion and a leaflet featuring Irish soccer legend Paul McGrath endorsing his old friend Victor Boyhan are among the varied items in the collection.

It is chiefly drawn from a collection begun by Mr Kinsella, who runs an online repository Irish Election Literature. He has amassed about 8,000 items.

Dr Swan is a member of the curatorial committee of the National Print Museum and is a co-curator of Irish Left Archive (clririshleftarchive.org).

The Taoiseach congratulated everyone involved in developing the collection of political artefacts. “It is a treasure trove of memories and an invaluable repository for historians, social scientists, journalists, art historians, printers and the public at large,” he said.