Monday, May 2, 2011

Campaign Review

I was initially going to write a post on Wednesday night when I got home after the long day in the Exam Hall waiting for the 1st count. But then I thought better of it and decided to let it lie for a few days before putting the proverbial pen to paper.

The Result

For those that haven't seen the figures yet, I polled 178 on the 1st count and by the time I was eliminated after the 6th count that had gone up to 206. With a quota of 3891, that means I was about an order of magnitude short of where I needed to be. David Norris was elected on the first count with over 36% of the 1st preference votes. Ivana Bacik took the second seat on count 10 having secured 2982 1st prefs and Sean Barrett overtook Tony Williams to take the final seat from a starting position of 1051 votes.


The first lesson learned is that you can't run a successful election campaign without a long planning phase. While I put out a few feelers the week before the General Election, we only decided to run the campaign three days before the close of nominations. That meant there was no chance to get friends and classmates back on the electoral register, no time to get the campaign website online before the candidates were announced in the press, no time to do some proper brainstorming on campaign message and tactics. In fact the rushed timescale meant even getting a valid nomination submitted in time was hard due to assentors not knowing which address they had on the register.

Incumbency vs Name vs Machine

While, relatively speaking, it is easy enough to get onto the ballot paper for the university seats, it is a whole other job getting votes. Looking at the top performers we have the two incumbents way out in front of the field. Next up you have Tony Williams who had the Shane Ross machine backing his candidacy. Next you had Sean Barrett who had run twice before as well as being a well known Professor of Economics. After that you have Maurice Gueret again a third time candidate who would be well known in the medical community and then Marc Coleman, economist and broadcaster.

What this points to is that having the resources to run a big campaign, having existing name recognition and having access to media seems to be key to running a successful campaign. Not that I am suggesting that any of these candidates didn't have policies and legislative agendas to back up their candidacy, but without these three components is is hard to get those policies across to the electorate. In each of these three areas I was blown off the field.


What would be interesting to know is how much was spent by candidates on the campaign. I have previously blogged about my costs to which I must now declare an additional €150 or so to Facebook for online ads during the campaign. From what I can gather, certain campaigns spent multiples of my total, potentially into five figures. Unlike the General Election there are no limits imposed by SIPO on spending in the Seanad election which is something that might want to be addressed in the future.


Similarly to finances, there do not appear to be strict rules in terms of media coverage in the Seanad election and in a way who can blame the media for going after the higher profile candidates as they are the most likely to win. But if elections are meant to be fair with a level playing field then there needs to be equal access to media for all candidates. I had three serious media outings during the campaign. I was disappointed with my performance on Pat Kenny but I feel that both the Vincent Browne and Newstalk shows went pretty well. Just a pity that both of them came so late in the campaign after most people had already cast their ballots.


An election campaign isn't a one person operation. Thanks are due to the following
  • My wife, Stella, for putting up with my crazy electoral notions.
  • My mother, Eithne, for addressing several hundred envelopes and keeping tabs on daytime radio for Seanad election news.
  • Dave and Moran for the blitz weekend on the flyer and website content.
  • Edward for doing the website design in double quick time.
  • Anyone who got in touch during the campaign to express their support.
  • The 177 other people who put a 1 opposite my name on the ballot paper.

So does this mean the end of my political career? Maybe, maybe not. But I am certainly a lot wiser now than I was a few months ago with regards to the mechanics of electoral politics. I'm glad to have done it, especially as it may have been the last ever election to the Seanad.

Finally, I will be giving a talk at the next Ignite Dublin session on 8th June on the whole election thing for those that want more detail or want to chat about it in person.


  1. Well done Dermot, it certainly appears that running in the Seanad Uni panels requires a level of exposure and planning that is difficult to break into for all but the most high profile candidates. Fair dues all the same.

  2. Well done Dermot. It matters that you cared enough to stand, and I hope it doesn't discourage you from future runs.