WHAT’S IN A NAME? As Luke Ming Flanagan’s supporters in Roscommon/South Leitrim carried him shoulder high, it is doubtful they cared what they were dubbed. Pic: Mick McCormack
Spoofers, Mingers, one-liners and a new kind of PMT
On Saturday, Ciara Moynihan and Daniel Carey monitored the reaction to the day’s unfolding election stories on the airwaves and on Twitter.
The day shift
Early on Saturday morning, the shape of things to come was already becoming clear. The RTÉ exit poll indicated Fine Gael at 36.1 percent, Labour at 20.5 percent, Independent/Others at 15.5 percent, Fianna Fáil at 15.1 percent, Sinn Féin at 10.1 percent and the Greens at 2.7.
With nothing else to go on, the poll became the anchor for the inevitable wave of speculation that followed, most centring around Fianna Fáil’s inglorious demise.
On Morning Ireland, Aoife Kavanagh asked Professor Michael Marsh of Trinity College Dublin, who had been keeping a ‘poll of polls’, about the exit poll’s significance. Commenting on Fianna Fáil’s 15.1 percent he summed up what many a party faithful around the country must have been thinking: “No one ever thought it would get that bad.”
In a theme that was to dominate the day – revenge – Professor Marsh went on to describe how the first person at his polling station in Dublin (Marsh himself was second through the door) was ‘a young lad’ who was emigrating to America to get a job. “He’d stopped on the way to the airport to vote … I’m quite sure he didn’t stop to vote for Fianna Fáil. I’m quite sure he stopped to vote for anyone who was not Fianna Fáil.”
And true enough, cries of a ‘wicked witch is dead’ nature soon started to emanate from Twitter and other social media – the majority unprintable. Why? Well, as was eloquently explained by @AllanCavanagh: “… expect a barrage of joyful expletives as the day progresses”.
By lunchtime, news of the final tallies had started to pour in. A grim-looking Noel Dempsey admitted on the News at One that “It’s looking pretty grim.” So pervasive was the talk of monumental decline, one exasperated tweeter, @Jeremy_Hayes, was prompted to say “I wish FF would stop calling it a Tsunami.” Others relished the metaphor: “Batt O’Keefe says FF ‘hit by a tsunami’, now he knows how the country felt as he was sitting in his merc” (@navanman).
Meanwhile, the ascendancy of some politicians was causing some mirth. As it became clear that Luke Ming Flanagan would be elected, RTÉ presenter John Bowman quipped: “If Ming Flanagan wins a seat he’ll go from burning weed to burning turf, to probably wanting to burn the bondholders,” while a tweeter (@Razzmetazz) pointed out that “Ming won’t burn the bong holders.” @charlieconnelly wondered “Given how Dáil seats often stay in the family, is this the start of a Ming dynasty?”, while @ShirtnTie hit on an important issue for Ming’s supporters: “Question…Does that make followers of Ming….Mingers?”
On hearing that Fine Gael’s vampire-esque Leo Varadkar had won a seat, @PaddyDuffy noted: “Leo Varadkar gets elected. An inexplicable chill takes over the room.” Mick Wallace’s election in Wexford drew many comments on his appearance, with one, succinct tweeter declaring “Mick Wallace and his hair set to be elected to the Dáil.”
Consternation broke out – and quipping was severely curtailed – for at least two hours on Saturday afternoon, however, when The Twitter Machine buckled under the strain of Irish tweeting and screens across the nation went dark. When it eventually righted itself, one tweeter (@seamusenright) rather astutely pointed out: “Funny that we are so tech-savvy that we crashed twitter but we still count our votes in draughty basketball courts.” Quite. That ‘magnificent sports facility’ in Kerry South that John O’Donoghue ‘helped to build’ being among the exceptions. Obviously.
The night shift
THERE’S nothing like the wee hours of the morning to make free speech a little bit too free for some people’s liking. It was 2.17am when Niamh Lyons of the Irish Daily Mail, a guest on RTÉ radio’s coverage of Election 2011, wondered if the defeats of Paul Gogarty, Conor Lenihan and Mary O’Rourke meant the death of craic in politics. “The Dáil is nothing without its spoofers,” said Lyons. “If that doesn’t bring a phone call from Athlone, nothing will!” Labour’s Pat Rabbitte warned with an uproarious laugh.
The ‘night shift’ produced its fair share of memorable moments on TV, radio and online. Rabbitte was in great form, responding to Michael Ring’s admission of ‘tension’ during the campaign with a new definition of PMT – “pre-ministerial tension”.
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan led his canvassers (‘Mingsters’, as he called them) in a chorus of ‘Championes’ after his success in Roscommon/South Leitrim. And after the state broadcaster finally bowed out, Midwest Radio brought us home.
The passing of power was vividly underlined by coverage of the first count from Mayo. Seán O’Rourke and John Bowman cut away from interviews with Brian Cowen and Micheál Martin respectively to broadcast live from Castlebar.
Later, Fintan O’Toole found himself in the unusual situation of sticking up for Fianna Fáil’s Martin Mansergh after a verbal assault over the wireless by Ger Colleran. When an alarm went off shortly after 8pm, Seán O’Rourke – who was interviewing Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams at the time – said “some unkind person” had suggested it was “a bomb scare”.
On TV, what John Bowman called “the flirtation” between Fine Gael and Labour was gathering pace, as Labour’s Ruairí Quinn suggested that the “Munster/Leinster game” between the parties was now over. Enda Kenny flew to Dublin and gave his best interview of the campaign to Richard Crowley.
Mary Coughlan’s defeat to Thomas Pringle meant that the election’s ‘Portillo moment’ came relatively early. Michael O’Regan reminded radio listeners of Michael McDowell’s fate, spoke of the curse of the Tánaiste’s office, and told Eamon Gilmore to beware.
Some of the best one-liners came via text message. “A retarded chimp with an abacus would count the votes faster,” one disaffected person suggested from the Longford-Westmeath count, where the smell of petrol was noticeable after one man tried to burn a ballot box in the village of Tang.
It’s unclear whether the ex-Cork East TD who last week predicted an army coup heard about the attempted arson attack, but his appearance on TV prompted a tweet from Irish Election: “It is very late night at night to be deciphering Ned O’Keeffe”.
Elsewhere, Vincent Browne urged Joe Higgins to thank Joan Burton for the surplus which elected him, but TV3’s election-night show was otherwise strangely flat. Rather than let number-cruncher Odhran Flynn call the remaining seats, Browne persisted in making outdated forecasts and had to be repeatedly corrected. “A bit like watching a bunch of drunk Irish men trying to learn maths in Chinese,” was Colm Tobin’s memorable description on Twitter. Colm? It’s the way you tell ’em.