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A look back at the national distraction that was the Irish General Election campaign

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As campaigning finally ends and people go to the polls to administer electoral justice, my current thoughts on the general election are summed up by a question President George H.W. Bush asked Dan Quayle, as reported by the former VP to the LA Times: “I know you've had some rough times, and I want to do something that will show the nation what faith that I have in you, in your maturity and sense of responsibility. Would you like a puppy?”

The campaign has been an exasperating one, and at this point distraction is the only thing that makes it any way endurable. But while it’s been an incredibly disappointing few weeks for illuminating discussion with any social element or planning into the future, it hasn’t been at all bad when it comes to amusing sideshows.
Fine Gael have furnished us with the majority of the comic relief (whether or not that’s an omen is anyone’s guess), the first incident being Enda putting a bet on himself to win the election. With a guide dog behind the counter. Enda’s personal popularity ratings started to steadily rise following his meeting with Clive The Awesome Labradoodle. Coincidence, I think not.

But if his meeting with Clive gave him a bump in the polls, Enda’s jumping about in platform game format gave everyone else a stitch in their stomach from laughing so hard. “Go Ireland”, named after the action seeing the game would want you to do, involves Enda hopping around icing opposition TDs in his quest to do whatever the hell it is he wants to do. It’s awful, though not as bad as their previous amendment on whack-a-mole involving government ministers. If Fine Gael’s approach to running the country is even slightly similar to their approach to technology, then we are well and truly done for.

If only it stopped there. Over the campaign one story has been flying round the internet (but very few other places) that Enda Kenny dropped the N-bomb back in 2002 during an anecdote about the assassinated former leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo Patrice Lumumba, and then told the journalists in the audience not to report it. Our next Taoiseach, folks.

Not that Kenny has been the only leader in a racial embarrassment the likes of which generally only happen to Larry David. Micheal Martin wandered into a bizarre impression of a Chinese person saying how good Ireland was at making software. Far and away the best interlude of the election though was Enda’s running mate Michael Ring being accosted by a reveller at a hen party who, wielding a giant inflatable penis, pushed it through the window of the van in which he was travelling. Captions on a postcard please to the regular address.

And while we’re handing out awards, the title of “most hardcore” candidate in this election would have to go to Betty Holmes. A couple of days after declaring she’d run, she damaged her ribs after a rough landing at City of Derry Airport and spent a couple of days in Altnagalvin Hospital. Having discharged and got her papers in hours before the declaration deadline, she then spent a couple more days in hospital in Dublin, having an angiogram and stents put in a major artery, all within a week of the beginning of the campaign. As a health lobby candidate, she certainly has relevant experience.

Betty Holmes was one of the candidates who participated in the Donegal Youth Council debates I hosted last week, and while she performed well, there was one candidate who really stood out. The redoubtable Councillor Ian McGarvey, who’ll turn 81 this year, emphatically made his mark on the group of young people in the audience by showing up 90 minutes late, taking his seat at the top table, and launching into a statement that began “There are two things in this life: nonsense and reality...”. He got a standing ovation when he finished. As election campaigns go, this one confused nonsense and reality like no other I can remember.

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