Social media is a political power player, from the upheaval roiling the Arab world to an admittedly less dramatic but growing role in democratic power shifts. Ireland managed to channel its considerable political tensions peacefully into the just concluded general election, reported on, commented on, critiqued on Twitter under the hashtag #GE11 (standing for "General Election 2011." A hashtag is a shorthand Twitter label using the “#” character with an abbreviation or acronym that makes tweets on a particular topic easy to find and follow).
Search #GE11 on Twitter to find a steady stream of election reactions: thoughtful, inflammatory, partisan, hopeful, snarky and satirical. Here are just a few seconds worth of #GE11 tweets:
@owensdamien: Good day for Sinn Fein. Quite a few people will be rolling over in their unmarked graves #GE11
@Leo_Traynor: It'll be fun watching all the Labour supporters furiously deleting their anti FG tweets & blog posts over the next 72hrs...#ge11 (-:
@obeoin: Very bad rugby performance #6nations and seemingly endless count in #wk #ge11 is not doing my blood pressure any good.
@HybridVigour: When do all the contestants come back on stage for the heartwarming medley? #ge11
@janeruffino: BREAKING: Berlusconi sends Enda a message asking how he likes his Bunga bunga. #ge11
@anniewestdotcom: This is like day 2 of Lisdoonvarna. Everyone knackered, smelly and sick from the burgers. And still another day to go. #ge11
@louisemcsharry: Very disappointed to see that Ivana has been excluded. Great woman, great candidate. #ge11 (there are lots of tweets, mostly in disappointment, about the defeat of Labour’s Ivana Basik)
@siobhanbrett: Maybe people like it when #enda refers to 'this little country', or 'Paddy', the populace, as though he were an elderly neighbour. I don't. #GE11
@Con_Morty: #Enda sounds like a man with a mission. He may well amaze us all and be a good Taoiseach. C'mon Ireland! #ge11
@colmtobin: BREAKING: Enda Kenny calls for 36 hours of "light flirting" before they sit down to do a deal with the Labour Party. #ge11
@barrypeak: If i ever work in politics i promise to never lift anyone on my shoulders when they're elected. Dignity people. Dignity! #ge11 (LOTS of twitter commentary of the custom of hoisting winning candidates on the shoulders of supporters)
Several fake Enda Kennys are active on Twitter as well:
@notEndaKenny: Some people wear Superman pyjamas. Superman wears #endapyjamas.... FACT #ge11
@TaoiseachEnda: I've spent the day frantically looking for events in Leitrim to attend this evening. There's not even a cattle mart going on. #ge11 #rtedeb
The ersatz TaoiseachEnda has a YouTube page, with this video viewed almost 80,000 times:
In following election developments, Irish Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan kept his eye on the #GE11 Twitter deluge, noting “At one stage I took a break for a coffee and when I came back there were 5,963 new tweets.”
Website Trendistic provides this real-time graph of the #GE11 Twitter traffic over the last week.
MEDIA PINGS: Mary Pat Kelly’s epic novel “Galway Bay” is coming to a bookstore near you in a new paperback edition, and maybe to your TV as well. The best-selling Irish and Irish American saga is currently being developed for television by Jean Doumanian Productions, which has produced over twenty films by directors such as David Mamet and Woody Allen.