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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
From banning Galway people entering Meath to using Grindr: The evolution of election literature
A rundown of political communication methods since the 1920s.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IS essential in politics.

Be it a leaflet, a poster or a tweet, an election candidate has about five seconds to grab a voter’s attention.

The medium has changed, but the message is still the same: vote for me.

So what have politicians done to reach out to the electorate over the years? Here’s a round-up of how their approach has evolved in the last century.

Warning: The below material features an excessive use of exclamation marks(!)

1920s: Presentation was key

1920s ff nat exec

1920s ff nat exec2 Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

You wouldn’t get a font like that nowadays. People have gone sans serif mad.

Name-calling was acceptable, though.

lousers 2916 by-el Irish Election Literature 1926 Dublin County By-Election Irish Election Literature

1930s: Integration was highly frowned upon

During the 1938 General Election, an ad for Fine Gael Meath-Westmeath candidates Michael Sweeney, Patrick Giles and Charles Fagan claimed: “Meath Wants No More Migrants!!”

no more migrants! Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

So where were all these immigrants coming from? England? America? Asia?

Close. Connemara. (Is countyism a thing?)

Following the foundation of a new Gaeltacht, an influx of Irish speakers from Co Galway decided to start a new life in the strange, unknown land of Rathcairn. Blow-ins.

All three men were elected.

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1940s: Exclamation marks were the emoticons of their day

If you weren’t surprised during the 1948 election campaign, you simply weren’t informed!

wives! ff

workers! ff

young people! Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

1950s: Cigarettes were a good thing back then

The Inter-Party promised to lower the price of bread and cigarettes to make life more “bearable”.

1954ge prices Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

1960s: Euro-scepticism isn’t new

lab61commonmarket Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

Labour was keeping an eye on Europe during the 1961 General Election.

1970s: It was all about the hair

On this poster for the 1975 Mayo West by-election, a unique interpretation of the Irish flag provided the backdrop for a fine-haired, if slightly-surprised-looking, young man by the name of Enda Kenny.

Our future Taoiseach topped the poll and was elected on the first count. Because he’s worth it.

enda75 Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

1980s: Sing – or pay someone to sing for you

Campaign songs aren’t a recent invention, you know.

Hail the leader, hail the man
With Freedom’s cause it all began
With Irish Pride in every man
We’ll Rise and Follow Charlie

Seems like a nice fella.

1990s: Make people squint

In the ’90s, it wasn’t an election leaflet if you didn’t have to squint. Hard. They really made you earn information back then.

fglongfordros92 Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

elect92letter bertie Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

Ah, the winter of ’92 – a simpler time when people wrote letters and didn’t open bank accounts.

If making people’s eyes sore doesn’t have the desired effect, one could fall back on the ever-popular: “My policies? I own a dog.”

sean kelly ind 97 Irish Election Literature 1997 General Election Irish Election Literature

2000s: Get down with the kids

Grassroots designer #1: Andy Warhol is still cool, right? Young people like cool people, right?

Grassroots designer #2: I believe we’ve found our ‘in’.

*high fives*

Young ff andy warhol Irish Election Literature Irish Election Literature

This 2005 issue of Grassroots, the Ógra Fianna Fail Newsletter, showed Eamon de Valera in a new light. Several new lights, in fact.

Alternatively, you could adopt a mysterious persona. It will intrigue the masses.

whosalanfa Irish Election Literature 2004 Local Election Irish Election Literature

Current Day: Give the people what they want

A recent poll* asked voters to rate the traits they most valued in politicians. The results were as follows:

1. Ability to look off into the distance

2. Own a dog

3. Own a lamb

4. Ability to look off into the distance

Fine Gael candidates are particularly good at looking off into the distance – but, to be fair, as the largest party in the country it has more money than others to invest in that type of training.

*Publication date to be confirmed

brian-hayes-5-2-630x361 Brian Hayes, European Election 2014. Source: Screengrab via Fine Gael

jim-higgins-3-2-630x375 Jim Higgins, European Election 2014. Source: Screengrab via Fine Gael It's a double whammy from Mairead McGuinness, European Election 2014. Source: Screengrab via Fine Gael

If none of the above apply to you, you could always go down the ‘prove you’re human’ route.

You know, do regular person stuff like take selfies and eat soup. Preferably at once.

Sinn Fein European Elections Campaigns Sam Boal / Photocall Sinn Féin at the launch of their 2014 European Election campaign. Sam Boal / Photocall / Photocall

And remember, regardless of the era: always embrace new technology.

willie odea Irish Election Literature 2011 General Election Irish Election Literature

This poster is from 2011. As in, the 2011 that happened THREE years ago.

phil prendergast grindr 2014 European Election

Phil Prendergast adopted one of the most unique approaches to election campaigning this year by advertising on Grindr, a dating app for gay men.

We’ve come a long way.

All images courtesy of Irish Election Literature, unless otherwise stated. 

Read: 8 skills you need to run for election according to these campaign videos

On The Trail: 7 odd, weird and wonderful things from Election 2014