To Reach The Parts Others Won’t Touch

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From top: Social Democrat canvassers in Galway this week; Anne Marie McNally

On the campaign trail we find apathy and indifference.

But enough about the politicians.

Anne-Marie McNally writes

There’s always plenty of talk come election time of voter apathy and the disconnect between citizens and the political system.

As someone whose entrance to politics came via a passion to engage people of lower socio-economic backgrounds in the political sphere, I am one of those guilty of constantly talking about the apathy that exists.

No doubt, on the canvass trail over recent months I have heard more than my fair share of ‘sure what’s the point? they’re all the same.’ or ‘I know nothing about politics, they’re all just in it for themselves’.

People worry about young people’s engagement with politics; those on the margins of society; and those people who just never seem to turnout come polling day.

We decry the lack of engagement, we blame apathy for maintaining the status quo and whether you’ll admit it or not, we judge people who don’t go out and vote. How often have you heard the ‘people died for that right’ refrain? I’m guilty of it myself and I do stand by it however this canvass trail has opened by eyes that bit wider as to the reasons for abstention.

While so much of the negative attention is focused on decrying the voter apathy, there is a lack of similar attention given to politicians’ apathy regarding certain sections of society and how that political abandonment of certain areas and demographics might actually be the reason for those people not coming out to vote.

Last Friday night I hit the icy pavements (quite literally hit it at one stage!) and headed off to an estate in Clondalkin that is described in the Maynooth university AIRO research project as being ‘Very Disadvantaged to Extremely Disadvantaged.’

I had headed there because my Canvass Director had identified that of those registered to vote in the area, a high proportion of them actually turn out to vote.

What I found there was joyous. I’m not exaggerating. As someone from a working class background who is passionate about the importance of politics to change our lives, I was giddy from the exchanges I had that night.

I was met with passion, engagement and a sense of relief from people that someone felt it worthwhile to come and speak with them. On too many doors I was told that I was the only politician to have ever knocked on their door. One man said to me, I’ll vote for you purely because you weren’t afraid to come in here. That’s depressing in itself but revealing nonetheless.

The young people I encountered sitting on freezing cold walls around the place that evening were no more interested in politics. But would they be if they got a chance to have a face to face interaction with an actual real person who wanted to listen to them, hear what they had to say and acknowledge both their hopes and their fears?

Certainly that was how I felt with those I managed to speak to. A face and name on a poster is one thing, a real person at your door, engaging with you as a peer is an entirely different thing and I challenge anyone to have that type of interaction and not feel engaged in the political process.

For a political system to be truly representative it must have the voices of all those it seeks to represent at its heart. I would contend that it currently fails in that regard.

I know, from years of political strategy lectures and experience that the process of pulling apart an electoral register is a cynical exercise designed to identify the likely voters and those to be ignored.

That is electioneering rather than politics but it is still not acceptable. I freely admit that I will be focusing my attention, with very limited resources and time, on those areas where we know people actually come out to vote.

But I can guarantee that if I was lucky enough to be elected I would spend the next few years speaking to those people in the other areas, the people who want to be political but don’t know how; the people who are political but don’t yet know it in a formal sense; and the people who have stayed away from voting because they believe, rightly so, that establishment politics doesn’t value them.

Those are the people who deserve our biggest efforts not our apathy.

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

48 thoughts on “To Reach The Parts Others Won’t Touch

      1. Happy Molloy

        always been pretty young idealistic adult in terms of the political outlook but people stay for the craic. We haven’t slagged off Donie Moloney in a while, I miss that type a thing

    1. VinLieger

      An agenda on Broadsheet? Sure that would mean they are like every other media outlet in existence and we all know that can’t be true due to how cool and edgy all their posts are…….

    2. Medium Sized C

      Yes.

      But it would be consistent with basically every political piece that they have ever done.

  1. Ms Piggy

    I don’t live in a socially-disadvantaged area – far from it, I live in a very expensive area with a fully-employed and pretty privileged population. But it’s an apartment building, and in the 10 years that I’ve lived there (and at least 2 general elections) I’ve never seen a single candidate out canvassing in our complex, and my doorbell has never rung. You do have to ring an intercom doorbell, but it’s not gated and neither our friends, courier drivers nor pizza delivery guys have any difficulty reaching us or our neighbours. Ironically, one of our sitting TDs is from the neighbouring street (of older houses), and I often see him and his family living their daily lives, using the same local shop as we do. Yet neither he nor anyone else comes near us at election time, despite the fact that it’s a large development and must constitute quite a lot of votes. We’re quite an international population and not everyone would be eligible to vote, but even so. I’m not comparing our situation to the population of depressed areas in any other respect, but I will say that the famous door-to-door canvassing which Irish politicians constantly claim is the only way to get elected in this country is actually very very selective and limited. Only certain doors in certain kinds of area seem to count, which I find odd from the point of view of politicians’ self-interest if nothing else.

    1. Kolmo

      Ditto, no politician ever bothered with our 60 unit apartment block, no leaflets either, silver lining…maybe because 50%+ of the residents are non-native/no voting rights/not of this jurisdiction
      (west-end of NCR Dublin), Also a large percentage of the buildings in the area are vacant/speculator owned/pre’63 grimhole units.

      why would a vote-grabber bother?

    2. classter

      ‘I will say that the famous door-to-door canvassing which Irish politicians constantly claim is the only way to get elected in this country is actually very very selective and limited.’

      Selective & limited to where it works.
      Apartment blocks will be full of non-voters & those who are registered to vote in other constituencies.

      I also think that door-to-door cnavasssing is more limited anyway in the bigger urban areas.

      1. timble

        There are also a lot of gated houses now with intercoms. Generally people don’t answer when you buzz.

        When it’s someone directly at a door the occupant often won’t realise it’s a political knock until they open it.

        With an intercom on an apartment or gated house when they answer they usually tell you they are busy. Most people are very apathetic when it comes to political canvassing – not in a bad way – they still vote – but more so they are making their dinner, they just came in from work, they have to put the kids to bed, its cold and you’re letting the heat out, they’re watching tv and they don’t really feel like discussing the finer points of economic policy at 7.30pm on a Monday when they are starving. Usually 1 in 10 doors will actually raise a national issue.

        You have limited time in a campaign, you will go to where the highest concentration of voters are and where it is easiest to talk to largest number of people as quickly as possible.

  2. Clampers Outside!

    Those who live in apartments complexes are ignored too Anne-Marie.

    O’Snodaigh says he regularly canvasses the D8 area, in DSC district, yet in 20 years he’s never stepped inside the gates of our complex. Never called to the doors of the locals in my area, so I’ve been told by those in homes in the area at local meetings – I asked. (He also said he “printed” fliers and distributed them in the area, yet at local meetings everyone in the room when asked says they’ve NEVER got one, but that’s an aside…. I digress). No canvassers ever call to apartments.

    More and more people are living in apartments but no effort is made by any politician to reach them. Why?
    Are they viewed as transient?
    Are they seen as non-voters on your chart/ voter-turnout map?

    Absolutely no one in recent times (but Mick Wallace) has tried to improve the living standards of those in apartments. In fact, Alan “Labour in name only” Kelly recently ensured that apartment living would just get worse and worse due to his lowering of standards in buildings and bringing back ‘shoebox’ apartments – only Mick Wallace voiced common sense on this when he tried to get building regulations to increase ceiling height by 1ft. He described how apartment living can reduce a persons well being and that how on the continent it is well known that higher ceilings make for better well being, but the powers that be go with the money not giving a tuppenny damn about long term effects on those living there. And to tie this mini-moan up, I know they don’t care, because none of them ever call.

    Anyway… that’s my morning rant, and I need a coffee :)

    [ Please note, that when I say ‘living standards’, I’m not on about building materials like pyrite. I’m on about windows, light, ceiling height, corridors widths, the stuff that politicians can fix through regulations and standards for living ]

    1. Clampers Outside!

      A reminder of the state of apartment living in Dublin…. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/more-than-10-per-cent-of-dublin-inner-city-homes-have-just-one-room-1.1951707

      “In the north inner city, one of the most deprived parts of the State, with 20,000 residents, 46 per cent of all homes have one bedroom or are studios. More than half of these homes were built in the past 20 years.”

      Alan Kelly wants this to continue, who is going to stop that *insert extremely harsh insulting expletive here* !

      1. Keith

        There is nothing wrong with studio apartments in of themselves. A proper housing market would provide these, along with other types of housing, as per demand.

        The problem is that the market is particularly sane these days so families are being forced to live in apartments that are not appropriate. Any moves by the government one way or the other will probably only have an effect in a year or two down the line.

        That said, it’s clear (from a previous BS post about the Claire Byrne show this week), that the government have not being building or encouraging the building of, enough social housing. They deserved to be made accountable for that, not for a change in the building regulations.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          No. They are, Alan Kelly is, responsible…

          IT – http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/editorial/downsizing-apartments-1.2301400
          “Dublin City Council’s climbdown from the high standards it had set for apartment design just a few years ago is already being seen as a shameless capitulation to pressure from the construction industry. ”

          BS – https://www.broadsheet.ie/2015/12/24/return-of-the-squeeze-box/

          KFM – http://www.kfmradio.com/news/22122015-1240/new-apt-size-guidelines-criticised-return-shoe-box-sized-homes – “Lecturer in housing studies with DIT Lorcan Sirr, speaking to Kildare Today, says the regulations have no economic rationale and are a return to shoe-box size homes”

          Breaking News – http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/new-apartment-guidelines-a-backward-step-that-will-see-return-to-shoebox-homes-712574.html – “ALONE has expressed disappointment at Minister Alan Kelly’s decision to allow developers to build studio apartments up to 27% smaller than the current minimum apartment size.”

          Irish Examiner -http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/new-apartment-guidelines-a-backward-step-that-will-see-return-to-shoebox-homes-712574.html#! – ‘a backward step’

          ALL Alan Kelly’s doing. What the fupp would a Tipp lad know about apartment living anyway, he live sin the sticks!

          [ Sorry Tipp, I have many good friends from Tipp :) ]

    1. Keith

      +1. Good article.

      Which is why Fine Gael is not going to get a hiding at the polls. They will be accepted as the natural party of government by the apathetic masses.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      You’re constant throwing of personal insults without addressing a single point raised by the person you’re insulting makes you look very smart and encourages me to agree with you about the person you’re insulting.

      1. Dav

        a point such as “the worst kind of snob is a working class one” is not worthy of debate, it’s an insult and should be treated as such. It’s part of the blushirt psyche, not only do they hate the poor for being poor they also hate them for trying to stand up for themselves, your defence of such hatred is pretty poor form, even for you.

  3. inPisces

    Thanks Ammo that was an inspiring rant though a bit too long I felt. I really admire your idealism and can do approach but am more interested in how you will find elected reality in Dáil Éireann and what you will do to reform an obviously dysfunctional politburo in there eg term limits, reform of process for voting etc

    Substance please not hot air

    1. classter

      ‘Cause BS has decided to give a regular slot to AMMcN.

      Perhaps for balance – lots of mildly centre right figures are given space & time to air their views in the Irish media.

  4. fluffybiscuits

    Labour breakaways with centre right economic views tackles voter apathy by engaging with people who will vote. Is the whole idea to get people who will not vote? TCould we just rename the site SD sheet?

  5. Tony

    It does come across as a bit of a Mother Teresa coming to speak to the dispossessed and being so moved by how happy the plebs were to see her. However, I have no doubt that AM means well and I hope that her idealism doesn’t take too much of a kicking when she realises they dont want an equal and inclusive county that cherishes diversideee etc… they just want a medical card and a grant and maybe a word with the judge.

      1. scottser

        while tony obviously has a multiple personality disorder, it’s such a shame that they’re all self-loathing deviants.

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