By Jim Gibney (for Irish News)
“Is election literature junk mail?” was a question on the mind of a team of Sinn Fein leafleters, a group of which to date has delivered almost 15,000 leaflets in the Dublin constituencies where Sinn Fein is standing Sean Crowe, Aengus O’Snodaigh and Dessie Ellis.
Before polling day on February 25 republicans from the north will have distributed tens of thousands of leaflets across the state.
Before election day, that question (and it is not a trivial one) will have passed through the minds of many a leafleter because we all know what its like to get junkmail and we all know where it instantly ends up - in the recycling bin.
I would be worried about which category election literature fits into because it was not the odd letter box which had the ‘no junkmail’ warning it was the odd one which did not have it.
Some people even went to the bother of translating these warning signs into several European languages with one or two declaring their gardens, footpaths and front doors a canvasser-free zone. But then there were others who permitted their gardens to be used as sites for candidate posters.
Junk mail or not is not the most important question.
This election is like no other in living memory: Fianna Fail, despite its new leader Micheal Martin’s attempts to portray himself, according to the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore, as the Great Pretender, seems set for a drubbing. The polls are suggesting that Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael could get the magical 84 seats: the number required to form a single-party government.
And while that would not be a people’s revolution Egypt-style, it would be an electoral revolution Irish-style.
It is 30 years since a single party in the south held such a position and that was Fianna Fail under Charlie Haughey.
The hunger-strike of 1981, the election of hunger striker Kieran Doherty and blanketman Paddy Agnew, put an end to single-party government. Coalition governments in perpetuity was the ironic legacy from Fianna Fail’s failure to support the hunger strikers and its alienation of some crucial voters.
Last Sunday a packed Mass at Belfast’s Clonard Monastery marked the beginning of a series of events in this the 30th anniversary year of the hunger strike.
Saturday also happened to be the 35th anniversary of the death on hunger strike of Frank Stagg in an English jail.
But to return to the election.
The shrill exchanges between Labour and Fine Gael remind one that both cannot claim to be economically literate.
Michael Noonan accuses Labour of being a high-tax party: Eamon Gilmore’s retort that Fine Gael cannot count and appears to have lost 7 billion euro in its attempts to balance the state’s books. On Monday Labour revised down its claim of two days earlier, stating that Fine Gael lost not 7 billion euro but 5 billion euro.
What does that make Labour? (I wonder where the other two went?)
Elections are like that. The very air, or to be more precise the television studios are awash with ridiculous claims. None more so when Noonan said to an eloquent Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson, that his policies would ruin the south’s economy.
How rich (if you will excuse the pun) coming from Noonan. I am not so sure those looking in missed the obvious: the state is in financial ruin and a Fine Gael government with policies indistinguishable from Fianna Fail’s will deepen the crisis. The result of which may well be revolution Egypt-style.
The big challenge for Sinn Fein is that its alternative is both radical and bold but essentially just. Gerry Adams stoutly defended the party’s proposals in the leader’s debate on RTE on Monday night and challenged the consensus of the other parties.
They offer degrees of reform to the bailout, from acceptance through to renegotiation, all of which carries deep-seated financial pain for all but especially those less able to afford it.
There is no doubt that entire communities are frustrated and angry and are looking for an alternative.
When the last votes are counted we shall know the extent of the plebiscite on those economic illiterates who brought the southern state to its knees.