AFTER VOTING IN a new Government and a new President, nobody could be blamed for suffering from a little election fatigue in 2011.
However, it’s been a full 365 days since the people of Ireland went to the polls in the General Election so here at TheJournal.ie HQ we thought it time to look back at the moments that shaped the current coalition Government.
The campaign trails blazed with five point plans, three-way debates, five-way debates, talk of burning those bondholders and, of course, a lot of baby-holding.
- After an internal leadership battle in the ruling Fianna Fáil party and the Green Party’s withdrawal from Government on 23 January, the General Election was (finally) called on 1 February 2011. Fine Gael were already geared up – complete with posters and plans – as the party had been preparing to go to the public since the previous September.
- Twitter very quickly became an important tool for wannabe deputies up and down the country. It also became a favourite pasttime with election watchers who used the #GE11 hashtag for all controversies, debates and (understandable) rants. The micro-blogging site even became a forum for politicians to concede.
Paul Gogarty was the first candidate to admit he had lost his seat – and he did so through his Twitter account.
- TheJournal.ie Realtime Twitter Tracker kept an eye on all the 140-character happenings.
- Enda Kenny caused the earliest media frenzy by not participating in the first leaders’ debate. He snubbed Vincent Browne’s TV3 programme for a public meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon. One very angry dude/prankster made sure he still got a grilling though:
- The fall of the Green Party was also signalled early on when John Gormley’s kind request to fill Kenny’s shoes was turned down by the TV3 producers.
- From day one, there was a sense of inevitability about a Fine Gael-led Government – be it a complete majority or through a coalition. Even Labour got the hint pretty quickly and “Gilmore for Taoiseach” signs disappeared almost as quickly as they were wrapped around signposts and printed on shirts.
Image: The Labour Party on Flickr
The party strategy was then to tell voters that a coalition would be a more “fair and balanced” option than a single party Government.
- One of the most notable outcomes of the campaigning was the rise in popularity of both Independent candidates and the Sinn Féin party. There was never any doubt over the success of Gerry Adams’ bid in Louth. However, he did have to face tough questions about his past, connections to the IRA, the Northern Bank robbery and Jean McConville’s disappearance and murder.
Adams and his supporters at the Dundalk count.
- Despite Sinn Féin’s push to become one of the main political parties in the Republic of Ireland, its leader was still omitted from the final televised debate on 22 February. Micheál Martin, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore sat down with Miriam O’Callaghan to talk bailouts, banks and taxes. According to TheJournal.ie readers, there was no clear winner on the night.
- Before that, the three leaders showed off their proficiencies in the Irish language.
- But not before they had argued over how that language is taught and examined.
- Although they were ahead in the polls, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for Fine Gael. The party lost some love over Lucinda Creighton’s ill-advised comments on gay marriage and the party’s subsequent censoring of its Facebook page.
A screengrab of the party’s facebook page pre-moderation.
- After years of political dynasties, the electorate seemed to be looking for something fresh and new, so it turned to inexperienced Independents hoping for refreshing honesty and an appetite for change. Cue Mick Wallace, Dylan Haskins, Paul Somerville, Luke Ming Flanagan, Thomas Pringle, Stephen Donnelly, Shane Ross and David McCarthy.
- All-out campaigning was paused for a short period following the Cork air disaster in which six people were killed. Labour and the Green Party both delayed the unveiling of their manifestos, while all parties expressed their condolences to the victims’ families.
- Fianna Fáil has spent more time in Government than most other political parties in the world but 25 February proved near-fatal for the people blamed for Ireland’s economic collapse. Summing it up nicely, Conor Lenihan said FF was facing an “avalanche” of negative sentiment. The party’s demise was the focus of the international media covering the election.
- Brian Lenihan, who was battling cancer during his tenure as Finance Minister, as well as the election campaign, retained his seat in Dublin West.
- The buzzword(s) of the campaign has to be five point plan:
Warning: Some crude language (it is the Rubberbandits)
That was all very interesting, but what really interested the public was:
- The election songs. Here is this writer’s favourite*:
*Well, maybe favourite is the wrong word. I’m not quite sure there is a correct word for this.
- That photo stunt that secured Eoghan Murphy a spot on the front page of most of the day’s newspapers:
- Micheál Martin’s Gift Grub audition:
- Poor Dylan Haskins. The youngest candidate was everywhere except for voters’ first preference lists. Read: Dylan Haskins secures fewer votes than Facebook friends.
- Eamon O’Cuiv. He was just resting his eyes though:
Eamon O’Cuiv even finds it hard to muster up some enthusiasm at the FF Manifesto launch. Image via @BrianODTV3