Monday, April 07, 2008

Take Enda With You

(Image taken from Ice Cream Ireland's Caught With Ice Cream Series)

I don't often join Facebook groups, nor do I spread the invitations to "join because my friend says she'll eat a live mouse" type. I don't see the point really. I'll add my name to a high profile campaign because I believe every vote counts, but unless it's specifically relevant to me or my interests, I tend not to subscribe.

When I got an invite from Damien Mulley to join the Take Enda With You Facebook group, I hesitated a couple of days before clicking on the link. I needed to think about this - it would have been dead easy just to say "Ah sure grand, have another signature, it doesn't matter" but as those who know me well will tell you, I never do things the easy way.

I've never met Enda Kenny. I've seen him on TV a few times, read stuff about him in the papers but overall I really don't have an opinion on the man. He hasn't struck me as being worth noting, not really.

And that's the problem.

When Pat Rabitte was campaigning or involved in politics, the man seemed to be everywhere. From Newstalk to the Last Word to Metro to the Ploughing Championships, he was there. Much as I think that Labour is now a largely ineffective party that has little grasp on the fundamental problems with today's society, a far cry from its origins, I did appreciate the man's personality and voice in the political arena.

Bertie, similarly had a great presence. I don't know if he was corrupt. I don't know if the Mahon Tribunal has cost the country more than the taxpayer's money and the career of this man, but I do know he was at as many events as possible, always willing to shake hands, kiss babies and most importantly be seen. And sometimes being seen is a great thing.

People may have scoffed at his thanking people for mass cards in his goodbye speech, yet anyone 'down the country' who had done that no doubt appreciated the sentiment - it gave them something to say to the neighbours - "did you hear Bertie said thanks - well I sent him in one and he must have got it", etc. All these little things have an impact.

(Photo from Maxwells)

In stark contrast to Enda, but from the same party is Senator John Paul Phelan (beside Enda, above). I went to secondary school with John Paul - we were in the same class for 6 years, and he was always a likable, gentle guy. Powerful on the sporting field from what I remember, but affable, genuine and decent. Hearing he'd gone into politics held no surprise for me.

The difference between the two for me is stark - John Paul uses Bebo, the local press and the web to get his message across - does Enda? Not that I know of.

In fact Phelan's Bebo page is a great example of how it should be done - here are my details, this is what I do, this is how you get in touch etc. I'm sure politicians are busy but even giving supporters/followers or interested young people a way of contacting a representative that they're comfortable with is important.

Ireland needs a change.

I'm not politically educated or aware enough to be honest. I know the country needs a change in the way it's doing things, in how things are done and in how people are treated.

Grannymar pointed me towards this event this morning as highlighted on Steph's blog - I hope to go along.

The Health Service is one political topic that's very close to my heart, given my parents' medical problems. Charity aid is another. Education a third.

Darren gave a good view on Bertie's resignation, and while I may not entirely agree with his "just a man" summary, I do appreciate that there's a lot more to Irish politics than him. Turlogh puts it really well. And back on Darren's blog, Gary offers a comment including

Bertie has done a lot of good for this country, and was very personable to many world leaders. Which in turn gave Ireland a brighter place in the spotlight.

Can you imagine Brian Cowen having the same wit, and charm when met with leaders such as Bush, Brown or Putin?

Which brings us back to personality, to connections, to people and to communicating. All things I think the Fine Gael party don't get their leader to do enough of, or at least don't tell people (like me) about in an engaging, memorable and remarkable way.

Whether or not Mulley's Facebook Group is out to 'achieve' anything, it's worth noting that at the time of writing it has 163 members since last week - a stark contrast to the Young Fine Gael one which has 95 members (live since at least July 2007) and the main Fine Gael group (live since at least March 2007) which has 110 members.

Bertie, take Enda with you.

This country needs people that do. Not just say they will but actually do. It deserves a decent healthcare system, a higher standard of education but also charismatic, trustworthy leaders who are seen to be willing to connect with people, to be honest in their dealings and to get the job done. I don't believe Enda is someone who is getting the job done.

I joined the group and I'm linking to the website. It may not make a difference but in some senses it's better than doing nothing.

Will you?


  1. Just a quick note but YFG bebo page has 643 friends and the UL one has 134. I'm not sure that making comparison between one group on Facebook with another is entirely valid if the groups convinced are in different places.

    I might get around to posting about Damien's efforts generally at some point but all I would say for now is that his motives are not as he suggests they are. And you raise some interesting points that I should try to address too.

  2. I'm going to have to swim against the tide I'm afraid. I'm not a FG voter by any stretch, and I do agree he's hardly Mr Personality, but if we all agree Bertie is stepping aside because of the Tribunal, I believe it's wrong to suggest Kenny goes at the same time. That's just me. Sorry!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys.

    @dan - Dan, your points are interesting and thanks for pointing them out. However, I find Bebo to be a different beast to facebook - firstly a lot of younger kids are on it and really you're not going to be "judged" as much on what you are a fan of or a friend of on Bebo - your employers and colleagues are unlikely to be on your profile, whereas facebook has a more corporate feel.

    However, if you feel numbers are important, I'd also point at the people who post comments, who add photos, who submit comments, who attend meetings and who generally participate. Even those who "give da luv" is somewhat an indication of their "belonging" to FG, rather than it being just another "friend" or group they've joined.

    I'd also like to see what YFG and Fine Gael - the marketing/press/pr people employed by the party have done to promote the party, to instil that bit of confidence in/support for those who created and manage the profiles. Do they actively participate, update, communicate?

    One of the points I failed to make strongly enough in my post was that speaking to supporters - and allowing them to contact you in a fashion they feel comfortable with - is of the utmost importance.

    Whereas 20 years ago I remember the only way of getting in touch with your local TD was to go to one of his regional offices (or meet him at a funeral) or to go to the neighbour's house to use their phone if it was urgent, now it's mobile, phone, email, internet, bebo, facebook, through the dáil, fax, letter etc.

    A lot of the "mystery" has gone out of Irish politics - we're a lot more educated, more clued in, less tolerant and more demanding, as is our right as voters and as we should be.

    We should expect the leaders and parties and candidates who give us election promises to fulfil them.

    As for Mulley's motives - I'm not aware he has any but I'll tell you one thing - given the amount of crapness (which is sometimes government caused) he exposes and suggests an alternative - and usually better - solution for, the way he puts himself forward as a voice on a wide variety of topics, the way he encourages the Irish Blogging Community and urges change and improvement to benefit everyone, the way he invites criticism and for the most part handles it fairly and maturely and again, the fact that he is involved and he participates - well if he went for election I'd vote for him. Are there many politicians out there that do the same in the political arena?

    @jl you're most entitled to your opinion jl. I don't mean in any way to say that Kenny should step aside because of any suspicion of wrongdoing, but more-so to allow other voices to be heard and to continue the improvement of the company. We all need strong leaders. Enda doesn't seem to be one of them.