I am thoroughly amused by the Irish campaign posters

The upcoming elections for the European Parliament and a few vacated seats in the Oireachtas has the country in quite the stir, and I am enjoying a ringside seat for the fun. Growing up in Florida I tended to get caught up in the Congressional and Presidential campaigns which always cloaked themselves by taking positions on the biggest national issues. Now I realize that much of the behind the scenes politicking for votes was locally focused on the most influential members of the constituency, but for a kid watching the national news, issues like zoning and the opening hours for the community pool seemed laughably unimportant and therefore who was elected to the local governing authority was of little interest (Naive, I know).

My impression here has been that the Irish campaign brings that local focus to the forefront. While the worldwide recession has hit Ireland, a remarkably open economy, particularly hard and the party leaders have been hammering away at the biggest issues, such as the apparently woeful state of the Health Services and the laughable state of the banks, this election feels like it will turn on issues like lawn maintenance and the prices at the local grocery store. For a guy raised on the idea that any campaign, including the one to become the local dogcatcher, wins or loses on the abortion issue or the right to own an assault rifle, it’s awfully refreshing.

Enough of my child-like impressions, let’s get to the nit-picking. Pick a colloquialism, I haven’t a dog in this fight or I have no horse in this race, but either way the Irish political parties’ obsession with campaign posters is incredible. They are everywhere and there are thousands of them. On every roadside post they are stacked two, three or four high. Smiling faces, staring at you, pleading for your vote. Either they actually are effective (people vote for the handsomest or prettiest face), or Ireland has developed an iron triad to rival the famed military industrial complex back home.

One of the opposition parties, Fine Gael, has decided to revamp their posters so that they will stand out from the others (see photos). I post these because I find them to be an example of bizarre overthinking (or creativity by committee).

Every other party chooses to put the name of the candidate below their photo probably to avoid the above situation in which the candidate must contort themselves to fit in the space allotted. “Vote for us, we’re almost fully erect” seems a poor message.

Additionally, the background sea of nameless white people staring blankly at you seems…disconcerting?They are too small to be clearly visible from a passing car (the poster’s target) and seem instead like a not particularly happy crowd waiting for you to do something for them. Again, in my feeling, this is not a compelling or inviting image.

I have to assume the clouds were added on the blue background as a sop to hope, but their effort to keep them from interfering with the candidate’s name and thus shoulder level only further emphasizes the telescoping effect where the candidate seems even closer to you.

All combined, I can understand how a committee thinking of each element separately would think this makes a great poster, however I would argue that the full effect is not a positive one.

As an aside, and in my own defense, let me add that I recognize this as an unhealthy obsession with details that no person in their right mind should worry about. Ok, that’s not really a defense, but as a researcher in politics and a frequent observer of campaigns this was beginning to bother me, and I suspect a few colleagues will disagree. What better reason to share?

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2 responses to “I am thoroughly amused by the Irish campaign posters

  1. You do realise the local elections are on that day as well? Is it that surprising that there’s a local focus to local elections? Councils do deal with lawn maintenance. And not banking systems…

  2. I do realize, but like I was trying to say (badly I’ll admit) was that my experience in the US was that even the local dogcatcher had to take a position on Roe vs. Wade to get the media to pay attention to him.

    I really enjoy that the local elections here feel, well, local. There’s a nice connection and it seems like local officials really have to make an effort to address local needs.

    But of course, this sort of thing goes on back home as well. Constituency services are a universal democratic requirement. So really, I’m just an ass. :)

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