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Yesterday I listened to a media debate on the Sinn Fein TD, Aonghus O’Snodaigh’s use of ink cartridges: €50k’s worth in two years. The media coverage was so limited as to border on completely daft. It was presented entirely as an issue of credibility. One side says basically that no one could possibly print and distribute that many leaflets and the TD must be up to something else. The other side says that the shifting of millions of leaflets is testimony to the service offered by this TD to his constituents.

The worst scenario and the one ignored by commentators is that Aonghus O’Snodaigh is telling the truth! Almost all of the leaflets that I receive are non-political. They market the idea that the candidate/TD is “active on the ground”, “serving the community”, “offering advice and information”. One TD of my acquaintance has never had a political thought in his life and he sees this as a virtue which enables him to support whatever constituents seem to want.

Perhaps we could do away with elections and decide who becomes a TD by weighing the total of non-political leaflets delivered by each candidate. Oh no, that wouldn’t be fair because it wouldn’t take into account other non-political activities “in the community” and “on the ground”!

Now, I’m well aware that if I became a candidate, I’d have to play this game of pretend because it’s become the norm. However, when a case emerges that illustrates quite how bizarre this “non-political” form of campaigning actually is, it might be expected that our media would shape public discourse to talk about a basic problem.



  1. Colum,

    Except that that debate might degenerate into the voters elect the wrong people therefore lets change the electoral system to train the voters better etc. etc.

    Or another possible direction is leaflets are a waste, litter, democracy is litter, leaflets stupid intrusion in my life etc. Democracy is not perfect. Some leaflets good, some bad, some representation good some bad. Its an untidy business but you can’t legislate for that and at the end of the day, thankfully, the voter is sovereign and can make their own mind up about the content and quantity of leaflets.

  2. Joanna, Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t advocating a change in the voting system or a ban on leaflets – even the non-political ones. What I’m on about is that the issue is being discussed in the media merely in terms of whether there was an extraordinary amount of leafletting done or if something else was done with the ink cartridges. I think it a measure of how useless our journalists are that not one so far has said, “Hang on, is this what we want or mean when we talk of political representation?”

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