Ireland goes to the polls again this weekend, in a General Election to determine which one of the two near-indistinguishable neo-liberal parties that have run the country since independence will head the government this time round, and which one will prop them up while pretending to be the opposition.
A feature of Irish elections which surprises many visitors to the country is the election postering in the build-up. Of course littering the country with posters and flyers giving rise to tonnes of unnecessary waste happens worldwide, but Ireland is one of the few countries that actually plasters the candidates faces everywhere. It is in some way reminiscent of the personality cults of, for example, the DPRK. Travel around the northern half of the Korean peninsula and you will be greeted with images of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il everywhere. One could be forgiven for wondering whether Ireland has a similar set-up, given the proliferation of images of ‘leaders’ at the moment.
Such posters state nothing about policy or manifestos. The vast majority are purely headshots of the candidates. It suggests that we should just pick a person and vote for them, not for what they stand for nor what they promise to do in government (or lie about doing at least). All around Dublin, I have only seen a handful of posters, much smaller than the massive headshot ones, from the Labour party displaying brief and vague statements about health and housing. Fianna Fáil’s nationwide generic poster has an image of the party leader (head of the current junior coalition party that is pretending to be the opposition) with the nebulous slogan ‘Ireland for All’, or the Irish version ‘Éire do chách’.
A couple of posters have tried to be more eye-catching however. The Social Democrats Gary Gannon has gone all artistic on us, relying on the power of his beard to sweep him into the Dáil.In the meantime, independent right-winger and ‘concerned citizen’ Dolores Webster has gone for this travesty:But my favourite has to be Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross’ effort:
Note the prominent ‘I’m recycled’ hovering beside his leering mug. I have to admire his self-awareness. Vote for him, and vote for the same recycled ineffective policies that are strangling the country and have turned it into a playground for wealthy investors and tax-dodging multinationals, leaving scraps for the actual citizens to fight over.
Most likely, after this weekend, we’ll see the same old recycled rubbish back leading the government. Plus ça change.