Across The Pondby Paddy Duffy
- Conor Cusack, John Murray and Ireland's continuing crusade for mental health awareness
- Seven things the Irish learned thanks to the Senate referendum
- Mayo have an All-Ireland ancient curse similar to the Red Sox jinx
- Remembering the radiant Mira and her buzzing modern Facebook shrine
- Remembering two giants, Seamus Heaney and David Frost
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.
The general election due to take place in Ireland is likely to be one of the most extraordinary we’ve ever had. Not only is the economic situation more consumed by more dire straits than Mark Knopfler’s studio technician, but confidence in pretty much every major Irish institution is hanging comically round the ankles.
So while people may be united in loathing, their voting preferences are all over the shop. Fine Gael are riding high as a party and Enda Kenny, previously only marginally more popular than shin splints, is now getting kudos for not screwing up more than anything else. Labour are slipping behind, with even Eamon Gilmore’s personal popularity falling. Fianna Fáil are hoping their numbers go up thanks to Micheal Martin, the theory being it’s very hard to be angry at somebody who agrees with you and doesn’t argue back, but it’s not working. Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance are picking up support in the polls but that tends to fall off when people actually reach the ballot box.
Add to that the multiple (some might say numbing) TV debates this year, and with offhand comments all but impossible to bury now in our internet-omnipresent age, there will also be an unprecedented opportunity to see parties and party members screw up. And while the state of the parties will no doubt leave us wholly exasperated, that leaves the way open for a group unusually prevalent people in Irish politics anyway to really make their mark this time: Independents.
Far be it from TV3 or RTE to hold sway over all the debating fun over the next few weeks, as this week the Donegal Youth Council are hosting debates, which I’ll be moderating, on the 15th and 16th of February. On the 15th the candidates in the North East constituency will plead their case in Letterkenny, while the following night the candidates in the South West in Donegal Town will take their turn. It promises to be an interesting and illuminating couple of nights.
For starters this is a debate where the topics of discussion will be provided by the young people in attendance, and will be free to comment and ask questions of any candidate at any point. As young people feel more acutely than ever, unemployment, education and future prospects are serious issues in this election, and these debates will give a golden opportunity for them to directly question their prospective new TD’s on the issues that matter to them most, and ascertain who most corresponds to their own worldview. And even though a great deal of that audience will be under 18, the choices those candidates make after they’re elected will have a big effect on how the next five years and beyond of their lives go. And they know it.
Discussing election topics they wanted brought up on the night with the youth councilors last week was truly inspiring. The range and depth of the discussion, with young people ranging from 13 to 17 years of age, was seriously impressive. We talked for two hours but we could’ve easily talked for another two. Whatever and about the rest of the country, this was an apathy-free zone, and it was beyond refreshing.