Someday My Prints Will Come

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 From top: Averil Power, Michael Lowr; Anne Marie McNally

Amid the row over ridiculous print orders for Christmas Cards by parliamentarians there is a serious issue

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

What day is it at all? Sure I’m all over the place with the days. Let me just check my calendar. One of the 75,000 Oireachtas calendars from my local parliamentarian perhaps?!

The last week or so has seen lots of hand wringing about Averil Power’s mega calendar order and Michael Lowry’s bumper Christmas card haul (85,000 seriously?!) but behind all the ridiculousness of those numbers and the outrage at the cost to the taxpayer there is a serious issue, namely the expectations of Irish citizens regarding communications from politicians and the political funding system in Ireland.

A recent conversation I had with a senior backroom staffer with many years experience in the Oireachtas went something like this;

Me: “What do you think of her re-election chances?”
Him: “None – sure she hasn’t done a newsletter in over a year!”

Anybody who has had printing needs will tell you that getting a four- page (the standard) newsletter printed on decent paper is not a cheap option. Getting roughly 35,000 of them to cover an average Dáil constituency could bankrupt you and that’s before you consider how you’re going to get them delivered and how much that is going to cost.

Yet it seems that a large majority of the Irish electorate have an expectation to receive regular newsletter updates from their parliamentarians. And why shouldn’t they? It is absolutely vital that politicians communicate with citizens and this is of particular concern to representatives from the smaller parties or Independent benches who don’t have the mainstream media at their beck and call in the same way establishment parties do.

Ironically though, those representatives from the established parties are the ones who make most use of the Oireachtas printing service and who can afford to fork out for constituency-wide delivery every quarter or so – if not more.

It is worth asking ourselves if there is a correlation there – the more we hear from them the more we consider them to be the ‘serious’ parties yet it is us who are paying to hear from them! (And if anyone tries to claim that Michael Lowry doesn’t count as ‘establishment’ then they need to check themselves!)

The Oireachtas print service is strictly controlled – anything deemed to be ‘electioneering’ is strictly prohibited, so, for example, you can not include the word ‘election’ on anything you get printed or you cannot call for a vote etc.

Yet this narrow definition of electioneering ignores the blatant electioneering of the printing of 85,000 Christmas cards! I firmly believe that parliamentarians should have access to a print facility for the purposes of communicating with citizens. I do not believe they should be abusing that service with frivolous ego projects such as Christmas cards in the mouth of an election.

With the upcoming election you will no doubt be seeing increasing numbers of political literature coming through your letterbox and I’d like you to keep in mind that non-elected people (such as myself) do not have access to any such print facilities and anything we manage to get to you will have come from our own pocket.

The likelihood is that it will have been delivered by a volunteer who is helping out on a team because of a desire to see change rather than prop up the establishment – there are very few of us who can afford the fees of a professional delivery company.

As a candidate I now have a decision to make – do I sell off that second kidney and try to fund a decent campaign leaflet and risk the residual ire of people left smarting from the Lowry/Power shenanigans and If I don’t then how do I get my message to people who know nothing of me and what I stand for – especially when I don’t have the mainstream media at my fingertips?

So with that in mind I ask you to consider this when the material starts flying through your door – not all election material is created equally and before you scrunch it up and throw it in the bin, maybe do my kidney sacrifice some justice and just have a little read with an open mind?!

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

Meanwhile…

anne-marie

Free January 12?

 

39 thoughts on “Someday My Prints Will Come

    1. Dav

      detailed rules & oireachtas??? Your having a laugh. The irish political class don’t have rules except ,low standards in high office.

  1. Hick

    Twitter, LinkedIn, snapchat, Facebook, public meetings, etc are all free or low cost.

    I don’t think as many people are as hung up on news letters as was historically the case and that is surely changing.

    I’d rather see someone who’s talking about change embracing it and using different methods of comms. And if also really like to see it throughout the term rather than the 3 months prior to an election when it’s hardest to differentiate yourself from the heard.

    Folk are tired of all the old ways and waste now is a bigger topic than ever as we emerge from the chrysalis of recession. I am no proponent of the social democrats but I am that of a fair democracy, that said its up to the candidate to ensure their voice is heard and that starts with bringing people with you early.

    1. Lorcan Nagle

      I get the feeling that things like newsletters mater more to older people, and statistically they vote more than younger people.There’s also the maxim that an politician will pay more attention to someone who goes to a clinic than someone who writes a letter, who they’ll pay more attention to than someone who emails them. And the kind of peopel who’ll go to a clinic are more likely to be interested in a newsletter.

      So it’s probably something that doesn’t matter as much in reality, but the limited amount of information that politicians get could lead to the conclusion that it’s more important than it really is. Also, don’t discount the ability for Irish politicians to be hopelessly out of touch with the general public.

    2. bisted

      ‘…I’d rather see someone who’s talking about change embracing it and using different methods of comms.’…well said Hick.

    3. TheDude

      But Lowry and his constituents wouldn’t know what to be doin’ with them computer whatyamacallits, snap face and the like

  2. Shane

    I really like the “bold” text but should I ignore the rest? Although I’d prefer capitals, THEY ARE ALSO REALLY NICE TO READ and help emphasise your points

  3. CousinJack

    Innerworkings?
    A a dub, these newsletters are just more junk to be discarded with the local chipper flier. I suspect that this newsletter thing is to appease the over50s and rurals who stil read print media.
    Its a shame that politics in Ireland have to revolve around the over50s and rurals, and not issues that effect the productive part of society (i.e. under 50s in dublin (if you don’t believe me look at the tax take))

  4. Clampers Outside!

    “frivolous ego projects” exactly. Nothing more. Averil is a waster of tax payers money, and so is any other representative who does the same.

    Which makes them self serving w*nkers. I don’t see the point in mincing ones words… ‘waster w*nkers’ is a fine succinct name for them

  5. Continuity Jay-Z

    Paddy wants his Christmas card and Paddy retains the right to bitch about receiving said Christmas card. Our elected officials are the true prism through which we should view ALL Irish people… a bunch of gob-sh!tes.

    1. Bertie Blenkinsop

      You’re saying we’re ALL gobpoos?

      Even Bryan McFadden?
      Even Leo from Fair City?
      Even the fella with the sincere voice on the Quote Devil ads?

      Wow.

  6. Continuity Jay-Z

    Not Leo or Quote Devil. They rail against the Irish gobsh!tery. I saw them in McDaids. Railing.

      1. Continuity Jay-Z

        His face is the face of sincerity. If you have not been quoted by Quote Devil then you nothing more than a rustic sod dweller or a bedeviled slum-imbecile.

  7. Barbara

    Newsletters are infrequent and usually a single sheet. Useful for people to know what’s happening in their area. Don’t see anything wrong with that. Don’t annoy Ann Marie by the way she’ll block you

  8. Paul Wall

    How about our representatives just keep their websites up to date instead of us having rubbish stuffed through our letter boxes. I know most Irish politicians are about 15 years behind the times on most issues but maybe they could get some schoolkids to show them how to make a website.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      +1

      I already dislike the politicians that will use cheap leaflets and posters with tacky slogans to infiltrate a voter’s mind. They should be providing clear information on policy and manifesto and the website is the best place to do that. I despair at this at every election.

  9. Sorry

    Very interesting… a wider definition of ‘electioneering’ is much needed.

    Also, electioneers would do well to remember that most writing goes to waste for want of a good headline.

    Not this piece, thankfully.

  10. Kolmo

    It also helps explaining the inexplicable reelection of utter tools that the owner of a lot of the media in Ireland also owns an entire political party willing to push corporate goals. Everyone is ‘on message’ come election time

  11. J

    Forget the print ,it is the purple that bothers me. Paraded at every wedding, nag race, nightclub and funeral in town .Change the colour please.

  12. Andy

    From Catherine Murphy’s own webpage
    “In 2011, I used €19,026.68 of this allowance. The remainder was returned to the exchequer. The money claimed was spent on:

    1 Constituency Office rent, utilities, repairs, signage, equipment and furniture.
    2 A Constituency Office telephone.
    3 Web design, construction and maintenance, including this website.
    4 Room hire for public events in the constituency.
    5 Distribution of literature & newsletters to communicate with the residents of Kildare North.
    6 Advertising.”

    So looking at #5 above, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander?

  13. b

    Anne Marie why are you holding a meeting. A cynic might say that you are holding a meeting so you can put up a poster about it.

  14. rotide

    You know the way the usual suspects rage against the machine when politicians put up public meeting posters that are thinly veiled election posters?

    There’s entire posts about it ffs.

    Anyway, last time around there was one candidate in my area who I wouldn’t normally have voted for. Broadsheet as a whole would probably HATE him (Right leaning tendancies, family connections that might raise some ire and the color of his shirt? Oh it would put the italian national team to shame) He was the only one I ever saw. He was out every week campaigning in different parts of my locale, I talked to him a couple of times mainly because I couldn’t avoid him and and despite myself I liked him.

    I gave him a preference and signed up to his email (Which i did for a good few of my preferences). To this day I still get his weekly email and to this day I still like a lot of what he has to say. He’ll be getting another preference next time round. Probably won’t be my first preference, but he might jump up a notch or two.

    The point? I found it interesting that the two things I liked about him were both old school and new school. He would only have been a face on a poster if he hadn’t have worked so hard to get votes and he would have faded into the background if he hadn’t have continued to work hard and let me know about it via email. I have no idea if he does a newsletter or not and I don’t really care. I don’t know if politicians need to do newsletters, but they do need to connect with people somehow and they can’t all have unchallenged access to a popular Irish website like Anne Marie does.

    1. Frilly Keane

      Their gaff
      Their rules

      But.
      They haven’t done Ms McNally any favours.

      The Spoken Word
      Is what a new party candidate needs
      Not this ould poo

  15. 15 cents

    it really shows how behind the times they are… sending out calendars, newsletters etc. , its such an old mammy approach. like, a fupping newsletter .. what the fupp, its straight out of the 80s. finger miles off the pulse.

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