At 8.45 last Saturday morning, as I made my way around the quiet roads of Kilkenny, there they were – beaming down at me. No sooner had I left the small country byways and hit the roundabout on the outskirts of the city, than I met my first poster of this Presidential Election Campaign.
It was Mary Davis, looking for all the world like a cross between a Special K ad and Dorothy merrily making her way along the yellow brick road. Ms Davis, it seemed, stole a bit of a jump on her rivals. She’d staked her claim on almost every pole I passed.
And what people are saying is true – she does look suspiciously fantastic. Smooth of skin, glowing as if lit from within and very, very young. Whether her photographs have been airbrushed or merely, as she claims, ‘enhanced’ is kind of besides the point. If I was going to have my face blown up to massive dimensions and plastered all over town, I’d take all the technological help available to make sure I looked as youthful and attractive as possible.
In fact, it’s a pity some of the other candidates I saw the other morning didn’t take advantage of a little bit of enhancement. Martin McGuinness had a lovely, friendly, non-threatening smile on his face. But his ruddy face and very shiny cheeks gave him the appearance of an overexcited wedding guest, not the future President of Ireland.
And Gay Mitchell needed a little bit of colour injected somewhere, anywhere. Everything about his poster looked a little bit too grey. Not to mention his strange town mouse/country mouse theme – decked out in a suit & tie in his town posters, and wearing a very casual anorak with a tractor in the background in the ones put up around these parts. All things to all men, it seems!
I’m sure the other candidate’s posters will be just as easy to pick holes in (if you go around putting your face up all over the place, you have to expect a little bit of constructive criticism) but none of them were up early enough for my morning journey.
There’s nothing wrong with being late off the mark, in fact if I was to give them any advice I’d say don’t bother. Honestly, don’t. It’s a complete waste of time, and money (€3 each according to Séan Gallagher, who’s taken the sensible step of not using posters for this campaign).
All they ever really do is annoy most of us. Even the child in the car with me was irritated by the proliferation of posters. “I’m definitely not voting for them,” she said as we sped past each candidate. “They’re starting to annoy me.” I’m not sure whether she was talking about the large white boards or the people who appeared on them, and I never got around to asking her. It took the rest of the journey to explain that, at just 10 years of age, she more than likely wouldn’t be entitled to a vote.
But I’m sure she’s not the only one who finds the sheer volume of election placards plastered all over the city unnecessary, irritating and even offensive. The more times you see a certain face smiling benevolenty down at you, the less likely you are to give them a tick. I’m sure there’s a science behind the effectiveness of these posters – but I’m not buying it.
Having said that, they do have some uses. I read about a politician down in Cork who used her left overs to make a little tool shed at the bottom of her garden, I’ve seen them cut up and used as window boxes and raised beds and heard about one person who even managed to fashion a little chair for themselves. I myself have been known to put a couple of well known politicians face down into my beehives to keep them insulated over the winter. The bees, obviously, not the politicians.
So in order to make any trips around the roads of Kilkenny that little more bearable, maybe we should stop looking at the faces and reading the slogans and instead try to come up with new and interesting ways of making election posters worthwhile. They’re of very little use when they’re dotted all around our roadsides, but you’d be surprised how versatile they can be when they’re taken down.
About 10 years ago, I did something I never thought I would and returned home to live in my native county Kilkenny. Myself and my family set up home just one mile outside a beautiful little village called Johnswell. And we’ve never looked back.
For a living – I work as a freelance broadcast and print journalist. I’m a presenter on Ear to the Ground, RTE Television’s farming and rural affairs programme, write a weekly column for the Kilkenny People newspaper and recently co-devised a new Irish reality TV programme – ICA Bootcamp.
And for fun - I keep bees, grow all my own fruit and vegetables and putter around my polytunnel.
Kilkenny, June 2011
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