Monday, May 19, 2014

A letter to candidates and Candidatitis and other ailments

With a week to go before the election north and south I decided to write a short note of encouragement to the almost 350 candidates Sinn Féin has standing in the European and Local Government elections and two by-elections for the Dáil.

I included with it an article I wrote in 2005 for the Westminster elections. It was/is a wry and humorous look at the impact of standing in an election on candidates. Some of the names - for example Mary is Mary Harney - may not jump out at you now but I think you will get the idea.
GerryA xoxo

Congratulations on your selection as a Sinn Féin candidate.

It is a great honour to represent Sinn Féin in any capacity and a huge privilege to seek a mandate from your peers for our historic republican mission.

Not every Sinn Féin candidate will get elected. That is the nature of elections but every Sinn Féin candidate has the ability to get elected.

We should not be carried away by opinion polls. Every Sinn Féin candidate deserves 100% support from the rest of us during this campaign and on Election Day.

We also need to ask for preferences from  those citizens who are giving their number 1 to other candidates.

A second, third, even a sixth or seventh preference can make the difference between victory and defeat. Every vote counts.

So does every preference.

So, thank you all for your work and for standing up for citizens and the great Sinn Féin party.

Thanks also to your family.

I have attached a piece I wrote for Village magazine in April 2005 on Candidatitis.

I hope you are not suffering too badly from this.

Enjoy the campaign.

We are winning. Good luck. 

Le gach dea mhéin agus buiochas duit.

Is mise  

Gerry Adams TD



Candidatitis and other ailments

At some point in every election campaign every candidate forms a view that they are going to win. This syndrome, which is known as candidatitis, is capable of moving even the most rational aspirant into a state of extreme self belief. It strikes without warning, is no respecter of gender, and can infect the lowly municipal hopeful as well as lofty presidential wannabe.

Screaming Lord Sutch, or his Irish equivalent, and no I don’t mean Michael McDowell, who stand just for the craic, can fall victim of candidatitis as much as the most committed and earnest political activist. I believe this is due to two factors. First of all most people standing for election see little point in telling the voters that they are not going to win. That just wouldn’t make sense. Of course not. So they say they are going to win.

Listen to Michael Howard the British Tory leader. He has no chance of beating Blair. Does he admit that? Not on your nelly. Or closer to home. Listen to David Ford the Alliance leader. No chance of winning even half a seat in the current contest in the north but Ford sounds as confident as George W Bush addressing an election rally in his native Texas.

That's when candidatitis starts. As the 'we are going to win' is repeated time and time again it starts to have a hypnotic effect on the person intoning the mantra. By this time it’s too late.  Which brings me to the second factor.  Most people encourage candidatitis. Unintentionally. Not even the candidates best friend will say hold on, you haven't a chance. Except for the media. But no candidate believes the media. And most candidates are never interviewed by the media anyway.
So a victim of candidatitis will take succour from any friendly word from any punter. Even a 'good luck' takes on new meaning and 'I won't forget ye' is akin to a full blooded endorsement. So are we to pity sufferers of this ailment? Probably not. They are mostly consenting adults, though in most elections many parties occasionally run conscripts. In the main these are staunch party people who are persuaded to run by more sinister elements who play on their loyalty and commitment.

In some cases these reluctant candidates run on the understanding that they are not going to get elected. Their intervention, they are told, is to stop the vote going elsewhere or to maintain the party's representative share of the vote. In some cases this works. But in some cases, despite everything, our reluctant hero, or heroine, actually gets elected. A friend of mine was condemned to years on Belfast City council years ago when his election campaign went horribly wrong. He topped the poll.

That’s another problem in elections based on proportional representation. Topping the poll is a must for some candidates.  Such ambition creates a headache for party managers. If the aim is to get a panel of party representatives elected they all have to come in fairly evenly. This requires meticulous negotiations to carve up constituencies. 
Implementing such arrangements make the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement look easy. It requires an inordinate amount of discipline on the candidates' behalf. Most have this. Some don’t. Some get really sneaky. Particularly as the day of reckoning comes closer. Hot flushes and an allergy to losing can lead to some sufferers poaching a colleague's votes. This is a very painful condition leading to serious outbreaks of nastiness and reprisals and recriminations if detected before polling day. It usually cannot be treated and can have long term effects.

So dear readers all of this is by way of lifting the veil on these usually unreported problems which infect our election contests. Politicians are a much maligned species. In some cases not without cause.

But as we enter the last week of elections in the north I thought Village readers, if fully informed of the viruses caused by electionitis,  might be persuaded to take a more tolerant and benign view of the sometimes strange behaviour of those citizens who contest elections .

Love us or hate us you usually get the politicians you deserve. Granted this might not always extend to governments, given the coalitions which come together in blatant contradiction of all election promises or commitments. The lust for power causes this. This condition is probably the most serious ailment affecting our political system and those who live there. It is sometimes terminal. But this comes after elections and is worthy of a separate study.

Before they get to that point, if they ever do, candidates suffer many torments. Space restrictions prevents me from documenting them all.

So, don’t ignore the visages on the multitudes of posters which defile lamp posts and telegraph poles during election times, and in some cases for years afterwards. Think of the torment that poor soul is suffering. When you are accosted by a pamphlet waving besuited male, and they mostly are besuited males, as you shop in the supermarket or collect the children at school try to see beyond the brash exterior. Inside every Ian Paisley is a little boy aiming to

please. Bertie, Pat, Mary and the rest of us are the same. It's not really our fault you see. Big boys make us do it. And your votes encourage us.


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