Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Shinners and grinners

I don’t know if anybody noticed but a general election campaign has been going on for the last month or so. Seemingly the more posters you can put up around the constituency, the more the electorate think that you’re the man or woman for the job. Poster hanging is of course a vital part of running a Government and those who can shin up lampposts at local level are destined for great things.
Speaking of Shinners, the redoubtable Felix Gallagher was first out of the traps, getting his large Gerry’s-buddy election posters up a full week before Bertie called into the Aras. Unfortunately, he chose to locate them on the rear of showhouse signs which were removed from roundabouts on the Sunday evening.
One thing about Felix, though – he sports a most engaging smile on his poster, as do most of his party colleagues around the country. His casual grin was seen in many places where other candidates feared to tread, on out-of-the-way lampposts, far from the mainstream spots favoured by the other parties.
One unusual feature of the SF posters was the addition, a few days before the election, of little Irish flags. Now I assume they weren’t suggesting it is in some way patriotic to vote Sinn Fein, so I took it as a helpful little reminder that the election was being held in Ireland. In the last election, I spent hours wandering around Antwerp trying out my pidgin Flemish, before being told that I should go to the Mary Mother of Hope polling station in Castaheany, so Felix’s little reminder ensured I did not repeat the mistake.
Brian Lenihan was another smiler, beaming down with all the confidence of a man who knows his seat is safe and that he doesn’t really need to put these posters up to get elected but he doesn’t want to appear arrogant. He obviously favours the same passport photographer as his running mate Gerry Lynam, judging by the identical dark green curtain pulled behind them.
Gerry is not smiling in his poster. He obviously knows that he hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected and sees no point in flashing the teeth. What surprises me though is that nobody in the Soldiers of Destiny took Gerry aside and told him that moustaches hadn’t had a place in Fianna Fail since the 1970s, with the exception of, erm, Willie O’Dea. As it stands, Gerry’s photo reminds one vaguely of the bad man who used to tie the girl to the railway track in silent movies.
Another who was not best served by her party’s electoral machine was the Labour candidate Joan Burton. I mean, let’s face it, Joan is a damned sexy woman and you would have thought her posters would reflect that, just as a football team always plays to its strengths. Now I’m not saying she should have gone as far as a bikini and a beach ball, but at least she could have clamped a red rose seductively between her teeth, and worn a long flowing scarlet dress with a slit up her thigh. But no, they missed the opportunity of a lifetime and showed this bombshell only from the shoulders up.
A week before the campaign ended, a second Joan poster went up. This was of a younger Joan, more sultry, yes, but still only from the neck up. Her bob haircut made her look like a member of a 1960s girl singing group – the Rabbettes? – and perhaps hinted at the raver we fancy she used to be.
One thing about the Burton posters though – because of the brevity of her name and the white background, her posters were easily legible when travelling up the new Ongar Rd at 80kms per hour (sorry that should read 49kms per hour, officer) It occurred to me that if Celtic striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink should ever go into politics, he would need extra wide posters to fit his name on.
Fine Gael candidate Leo Varadkar easily won the prize for putting up the most posters in the constituency. Barely had RTE breathlessly announced the date of the election, and Leo the Statesman posters were going up on every third lamppost. Obviously deciding that this was not enough, another set of posters went up a week later, and then, with even his finances surely running low, a third set of posters went up a further week after that.
The first poster was of a serious yet compassionate Leo, backed by a blue sky and white fluffy clouds. He also seemed to be standing in the middle of a field surrounded by hedges and trees, probably to give the impression of a down-to-earth man, a real salt of the earth type. The second poster was of a much younger, misty-eyed Leo, in the days before he could afford a jacket, that appeared to have been resurrected from a previous election campaign. And the third one, which he obviously thought would help to sway the floating voter, was a diamond-shaped effort urging people to vote him number one.
The Socialist Party was very quick off the mark, with their first posters going up by the time Bertie had got out onto Infirmary Road. Joe Higgins was the only one of the candidates to be photographed in black and white, which some might say mirrors his politics. Again, his posters appeared to have been recycled from a previous campaign and one would suspect his election budget was just a tiny percentage of Leo’s. Less bin charges for Joe l presume.
The two late-comers to the poster frenzy were Roderic O’Gorman and Mags Murray. Roderic for the Greens somehow managed to end up with many prime location spots all to himself, though P.D.’s Mags, who concentrated mainly on junctions, often ended up sitting on top of Gerry Lynam or Felix Gallagher, or both.
Roderic had probably the most attractive poster with the green and white background, urging us all in the Littlepace Gaeltacht to make “an rogha cheart.” Alone of the candidates, he favoured the slightly oblique stance, turning sideways to look at the camera, as practised at the beginning of 1970’s American soap operas. True, Leo was at a slight angle in his field but that was probably because a bull was eying him menacingly and he was preparing for a quick getaway.
Mags went in for blue in a way favoured by Picasso in the early 1900s. Her blue mascara matched her blue eyes and her blue dress with Leo’s blue sky in the background. Curiously she sported what appeared to be Queen Maeve’s torc in her election photo and looked a bit like a young Twink advertising her latest pantomime in the Gaiety. Still with her long blonde hair wafting gently in the breeze, she posed coquettishly in a way that should be copied by Joan in the next election.
But perhaps I am being too critical. I had occasion during the campaign to travel down to the Longford / Roscommon constituency and was deeply traumatised by the ugly-looking ibexes they have adorning the lampposts down there. Mothers, I am told, keep their children locked in during the day and even adults go about their business with their eyes fixed firmly on the paths. Compared to them, our bunch of candidates are positively good-looking and, if truth be known, would probably form one of the more attractive ballot papers in the country.
One thing is for sure, though. Like Christmas decorations, the place is going to look really bare when they come down.

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