It’s Election day here in Ireland. Don’t get me started… oops, too late.I suppose elections are essentially the same the world over. You wake up one morning to find your local streets plastered with posters of people you’ve never heard of, with faces you wouldn’t trust to correctly show if they’re alive or dead. They all want one thing: power! That’s enough reason not to vote for any of them, ever.
This year, in Dublin, I’ve seen some particularly Irish variations on the theme. People were slapping up posters, tying them to every available pole they could find. In some cases, the posters caused huge traffic jams when they obscured traffic signals. There was even some defacement and tearing down of posters. My favourite, though, was the poster hung at the station I use to get to work. All it had on it was a woman’s face, a name, and the word “Education”.
You want education, Ms.? Just look at what happened to your poster. For starters, no-one knew what you actually stood for. (Education: more? less? Catholic? Montessori?) Secondly, you put your poster up far too early, long before the election was officially announced. Thirdly, you hung it in an easily accessible spot (a station) at shoulder-height, visible to hundreds of people a day, many of whom travel at odd hours and carry pens. It started off with a moustache, and your face progressively disappeared in a sea of black. The poster then vanished, just as the election campaign was getting into gear. If I could just remember your name, I would make a point of not voting for you.
To a Brit such as myself, it appears that the first priority in the creation of Ireland’s political institutions was “not like Britain”. This means a preponderance of Gaelic titles, since to use English would not be Irish enough. (Funny how it’s good enough for the USA, who had far more reason to be angry at Britain).
The following table may help in comparison between government institutions and people in the USA, UK, and Ireland:
|President||Royal Family||President||Mary McAleese|
|House Majority Leader||Prime Minister||An Taoiseach||Bertie Ahern|
|House Minority Leader||Leader of the Opposition||An Tánaiste||Mary Harney|
|House of Representatives||House of Commons||n/a|
|Senate||House of Lords||n/a|
“Oireachtas” is pronounced “O’Rictus”, and “Dáil” is pronounced “Dull”. “Seanad” is, of course, a gaelicised “Senate”, pronounced as expected.
The Taoiseach (pron. Tea-shuck) and Tánaiste (pron. Tarnished-huh) were the focus of most of the media coverage of the election campaign. I tend to switch off at the first sign of political coverage, but during the campaign, my overriding impression of Bertie was of a man who lives up to Lyndon B Johnson’s description of Gerald Ford: “so dumb, he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”.