Archive for the ‘Irish Politics’ Category

Orange Pride?

August 11, 2019

Orange Parade

When I received an invitation from Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland and President of Dublin Chamber to attend a very small gathering in Belfast to observe the Orange Parade on the 12th July, I must admit I was quiet surprised.

This initiative is something that Niall has been working on for a number of years to build bridges and trust across communities.

After some consideration and diary juggling, I decided to make the trip, mainly out of curiosity and to get a deeper understanding of the political climate in the North.

I was warned by many to be extremely careful where I drove, where I parked the car and not to wander out of the hotel alone for any reason. 

I must admit to feeling some trepidation as I drove into Belfast on the afternoon of the 11th watching the many Northern reg cars going in the opposite direction.

My Google Maps took me safely to the door of the newest hotel in Belfast, the superb Grand Central and I chose the valet parking to avoid any risk of going down a wrong street!

On the evening of the 11th there was a mini gathering in the breathtaking Observatory Bar at the top of the hotel, which was a spectacular location to look over the city and the various bonfires that could be seen in different parts.

The gathering included our small group, representatives from Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, some tourism officials as well as Rev. Meryn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order and some business people from the city.

As we enjoyed the wine and tasty treats we watched as the crowds started to gather close by, at a site where they were getting ready to set their bonfire alight at midnight.

It was a very strange and uneasy feeling watching the huge structure, higher than a house, with our Irish flag on top and an election poster for a female Sinn Fein candidate tied onto it… I understood why people left the North for these few days.

One of the group who lived in Belfast left the function briefly with her niece to observe the bonfire from the street and I asked if could I tag along … I did ask if it was safe first !!

The scene around the bonfire was strange with couples, families, friends and a random but large assortment of people of all ages all with their smartphones ready to capture the moment when the fire was lit. 

For some it was a mini party and they had their bottles of beer and cider on the go.

I felt more than a little strange witnessing what was going on and I was careful not to engage with anyone as the Cork accent might just be difficult to disguise!

Eventually the bonfire was lit and in no time at all the fire was raging, smoke bellowing into the sky and a strong blast of heat made it to us , even though we were across the street.

There was some cheering when the bonfire was lit and a small group started to chant something that I couldn’t make out – while everyone was busy capturing the “moment” on their smartphones. I really didn’t get a sense of huge celebration from the onlookers and I wondered was there a degree of discomfort with them as well, watching a flag burning that represented their neighbours and the poster of a female politician?

We returned to the hotel with our thoughts, had a nightcap and headed to bed.

The following morning there was a breakfast reception at the hotel with some of the leaders from the different Orange Lodges.

Before we sat down for breakfast there was lots of chit chat as the various people arrived in our private room at the hotel. It was clear already that this was a very special day for the ‘Orange Order’ community as they started to give us insights into their day of marching. Some were from Belfast and others had travelled from places as far away as Scotland and they spoke with pride about what this day meant to them.

Needless to say they were all turned out immaculately for this special day.

Finally the group sat down for breakfast and we had a chance to chat in more depth with those sitting either side of us.

I was sitting next to a very nice gentleman called William Hughes, The Deputy County Grand Master of the Belfast Grand Orange Lodge.

I shared with him my lack of knowledge about the day and the warnings that people had given me about a visit to Belfast.

He used some of the promotional material on the table for the “Twelfth” to describe the day to me, what it meant to the Orange Order and what collectively they were trying to achieve with the day.

There was a square beer mat with the campaign key message “Its about the Battle, not the Bottle”.

Basically, it’s about the significance of the Battle of the Boyne and the celebration of this and not a day for getting drunk! 

On the other side of the beer mat there was an image of people standing at a bonfire with the words “Heritage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture”.

The overriding idea is that this is an ‘OrangeFest’ for everyone to enjoy and instead of it being an occasion that would make people avoid the North, it should be the opposite, an attraction that people would want to experience and enjoy.

He explained to me how the Orange Order and the Orange Lodges worked, how they are rooted in religion and good living and how they are an important part of people’s identities and lives.

He did explain that from time to time they clash with the church, as the view is that if they really are upholding the values of their religion then they should be attending church regularly, which is not the case.

It did strike me that they were a very close knit community and that there was a huge tradition around the Lodges that passed from generation to generation and the Orange Parades were the ultimate expression and celebration of this.

I asked about the significance of the bonfires and I was given lots of rational explanations about a guiding light, about warmth and a sign of life. I shared my extreme discomfort about the Irish flag and the election posters as part of the fire and expressed the view that this seriously clashed with how the Orange celebrations had been explained to me by him and that it felt quite disturbing to witness.

His response to me was that this was very unfortunate, definitely not in the spirit of the occasion and it was effectively the work of some hooligans.

While I was glad to hear this explanation, I rationalised it by comparing it to hooligans at soccer matches who can chant and do stupid things and give all fans a bad reputation.

However, it did niggle at me that if the bonfires were so significant and a key symbol to mark this time of the year, then there should have been a huge effort to remove these emotive symbols from the bonfires. Where there is a strong will, there is a way?

Of course the TV crews picked up on these symbols as part of their coverage of the occasion, which sends a poor message to everyone, possibly confirming what many people have in their heads about this society and the unease in the North.

As part of the format of the breakfast everyone present introduced themselves and said a few words. Everyone was made feel very welcome and without doubt the hands of friendship were offered openly.

When it came to my turn I explained how much my opinion had shifted as a result of the experience and I thanked them for their hospitality.

Orange parade

Outside our window along the route we could see people gathering, getting in position for the few hours of marches. These people were organised, with their fold up chairs, their British flags and their refreshments.

As time passed by, the Orange Lodge members were starting to get anxious as they were checking their watches as they all had to be ready to take their position and march with their Lodge.

Our new Orange friends put on their sashes, there was a presentation, photographs and very brief speeches and they headed off to join their respective Lodges.

I took my beer mat and the souvenir programme as momentos of the occasion and to study them in detail later.

We left the wonderful Central Hotel and we were led down the road to a spot which was deemed good for observing the marches.

The walk towards our “spot” was a little embarrassing as the street was lined on each side by eager people all waiting for the marches to begin.

I suspected that many thought that our smartly dressed group were VIPs of some sort as we walked in between them – there was a lot of attention on us and many had their cameras and smartphones ready, just in case there was someone worth snapping!

You could get a huge sense of community as we walked and many of those watching seemed to know the guys who were leading our little group and there was plenty of friendly banter between them.

We finally settled at a spot to watch the marches and waited.

I was observing the people around me waiting – there were old and young, families, couples, bunches of friends and just the very odd person walking by with a drink in their hand – It’s about the Battle, not the Bottle I thought!

Orange parade

In particular, I was observing two young girls in front of me, 20 years of age at most. They were well prepared with their refreshments, their seats and the British flags in hand and they were enjoying their day. One of them had a baby and she held it in her arms getting ready for what was probably the child’s “first” parade – another tradition begins.

After a while we could see the first Orange Lodge appearing with flags, band and other members all marching proudly.

Our wait was a short one, but for many of the people who were waiting it must have been quite a while – it surprised me that when the marching bands did eventually reach our area there was no one cheering or even clapping, just watching.

Orange parade

Band after band marched by, some large and some small, predominantly male and a big mix of ages. The one thing they all had in common was the sense of pride and honour that they carried with them with each step.

Eventually all of the bands had passed by, possibly after an hour and a half and that was that.

As part of our itinerary there was an option to visit the new James Connolly Visitor Centre on the Falls Road and in a way get a sense of how the “other part” of the community in Belfast treated these few days.

I was really impressed by the little Visitor Centre and cafe and we had the opportunity to chat to the manager there, Séanna Walsh and one of the local political representatives for the area.

They explained to us all of the hard work that is being put in year after year, to keep people away from trouble and to give them positive things to do. We heard about the free music festival ‘Feile’ that has been going on for decades and we also heard about the activities on the ground to ensure trouble does not break out.

The Falls Road in the ‘Gaeltacht Quarter’ was not at all what I was expecting!

Before I knew it my Orange visit was over and I had lots to mull over about the very positive experience on the long drive home.

The following morning with a cup of coffee in hand I took out the programme for the “Twelfth” which I had from the breakfast the day before,

I turned the pages and started to read the foreword, which was written by a senior member of the Orange Order.

Two paragraphs in I found myself reading about the “disgusting Sinn Fein politicians” and further on I read about fascists and it got worse.

As much as I had heard about an OrangeFest, celebrating “Hertitage, Respect, Remembrance, Tradition and Culture“, the deep wounds and raw hatred are still very close to the surface witnessed by this rhetoric being used by the leadership in the “souvenir” programme.

I reflected on the bonfire, the Irish flag and the posters of the female Sinn Fein candidate and it made sense to me that many would be quite truthfully more than happy to see these go up in flames.

Maybe it wasn’t a few hooligans after all?

It is hard for us to properly understand what it is like in the North, the deep divisions and the deeper scars.

I do fully understand why people leave the North, and their plans next year and the year after will be no different.

I can’t see how this time will be a festival that attracts visitors anytime soon, which is very unfortunate for the fine place.

Orange parade

I do admire the great work that many are doing to keep the peace and to reach out, but more leaders will need to show more leadership and change their rhetoric for the sake of future generations.

I do sincerely thank the people I met for their hospitality and for sharing their special occasion with us.

Finally, I do admire the huge sense of pride and identity that they have for their history, culture and way of life and wish that maybe we should have more of that about Ireland and our Patrick’s day.

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Local Elections, old codgers and phone zapping…

May 21, 2019

Old codgers - Inniscarra Bar, Cork

We were in our local, the Inniscarra Bar, one of the most authentic old style pubs you will find in the country, part of that dying breed where the walls will talk warmly to you about everyone who has sat there before you and before them.

It was early on a Saturday evening and we were having a sneaky pint before heading home to cook some grub.

The two old codgers sitting at the bar sipped quietly on their  pints and every now and then there was some chit chat between them. One of the guys had a battle weary black dog with him who was busy going from one patron to the next, sniffing and being friendly.

For some strange reason there was a large election poster leaning up against the wall for one of the local candidates, Shane Fallon. I’m not really sure if this was a practical joke or if it was a serious election tactic by the candidate?!

Out of nowhere the two men got very animated and their conversation got louder and louder..

Those f##king posters are a f##king disgrace and they should be banned as they are ruining the environment

Wow….it went on..

Sure, don’t they have email and don’t they have the internet and..and don’t they have, you know yourself, can’t they just zap phones the way they do?

You are so right, a f##king disgrace!“, followed by lots of huffing and puffing and then back to their pints.

Were they right??  

It’s funny …just a few days beforehand I was standing in front of my Dublin Chamber Council colleagues presenting them an overview of our business sector.

To do this I reached out to many of the member companies, both large and small and looked for their feedback about trends in the sector.

A BIG MESSAGE was that there was a huge shift from traditional media to digital but this was loaded with a gentle warning that clients need to be very careful not to put all of their eggs into this one channel as you just won’t reach your audience in a way that your message will land.

As I walked back from the pub I noticed all of the election posters – who do I like the look of?

When I pushed opened the front door open I looked at the flyers that had been pushed through the letter box – who are you and what are you promising?

And if I believe you really care about the location I do expect you to knock on my door and chat to me.

I tweeted three of the candidates who had dropped in their literature and two responded. One just took herself out of the running!

It’s great that the old codgers got so animated about the environment (there probably should be a limit to how many they put up), but unfortunately a candidate who relies only on email (GDPR has that one squeezed to death!!) and zapping phones (I’m taking this to mean social media) will not be successful.

The candidates need to integrate their social media with their traditional media and however they manage it, they need to be recognised, liked and if possible connect in some real way with the voters.

Get out and vote this Friday!!

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

BAM BAM …. Leo versus Theo

February 18, 2019

National Children's Hospital

The lyrics of the Lloyd Cole song “The sickest joke was the price of the medicine” is ringing in my head for some reason today.

It’s pretty much accepted now that the Children’s Hospital project is our latest and proudest Irish debacle; before it’s even begun it’s running at pretty much three times the originally projected cost … money that could easily be lent to Donald Trump who desperately needs it for his wall or maybe even some affordable housing here in Ireland?

The media and the opposition benches scream for answers and an expensive enquiry and while we are at it I think we would like to know how this is possible in an era of “transparency and accountability”.

Simon says (that was a kids game we all played, maybe it’s still a game?) very little except sorry – really puzzling why he seems to be protecting people he should be exposing and why he is so slow out of the communication blocks.

Leo is bold and brave and points accusing fingers at certain contractors he won’t name (he knows they have great solicitors) and accuses them of gaming the system “These low balling tricks are too much for our idiots to handle” (my interpretation of what he said!)

Bam

Pascal the man with the cheque book suggests that in future tender rules will be tightened up !!! (Doh …. as Homer Simpson would say!!)

Theo the contractor fights back at Leo with a big “you talking about me??” and bravely looks for clarity and offers to step away from the contract as he knows this whole insinuation is extremely smelly for his company.

All of this talk is really damaging to their reputation and he should fight to protect it.

It’s very likely that he knows full well that any cancellation of contracts will earn the company penalties that us mere mortals could live lavish lifestyles on.

So… what should happen next ??

The most likely scenario is that the contract will plough ahead and Leo will be nice to Theo and insist he didn’t mean them when he spoke about “low-balling contractors that should be banned from tendering” and no one will believe him.

However if Leo believes what he said he should show some balls, fire the team who wrote the tenders (this is a big part of the problem), pull the plug on the existing tender and start again with a water tight tender and a rigid process that is fair to contractors in the event of any legitimate changes to the work.

As for penalties for dismantling the current tender contracts they should most definitely be paid, but these amounts should be fair compensation for any losses incurred to date and nothing else – the PwC fee note might be better used officiating over this figure rather than on a report, which in all likelihood will go nowhere and will lead to nothing.

These penalties, valuable taxpayers money, will be the fault of those who were paid to oversee the tender process, not the contractors who were awarded them and they should be held accountable.

If Theo and his crew are still interested in doing some great work on a badly needed hospital then go for it and make your fair profit, you deserve that.

We need that hospital built as soon as possible but at a price that we can all believe was fair.

Greg 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Protection for (or from) Whistleblowers!

November 29, 2017

Protecting the Whistleblower

Frances Fitzgerald, the Tanaiste has resigned “for the sake of the country“..

Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach has thanked her, for her service and has declared that it is a shame that a good woman who has done nothing wrong has resigned..

Fianna Faíl have got their way and they will quietly sit in the wings waiting, waiting, waiting until the perfect moment to pull that trigger.  They exercised their power in a big, public gesture and won this power battle..

Noel Waters, Secretary-General of the Department of Justice has decided to take early retirement and he is angry about the witch hunt against the organisation that he has been in charge of..

Noírín O’Sullivan, the Garda Commissioner, who was publicly supported by the Government retired in September (after her holidays!)..

A devious, nasty campaign against Maurice McCabe, the Garda Whistleblower, Parking Fines, Breath Tests – the whole thing is a shambles, a debacle of monumental proportions and yet at this moment in time no one is saying sorry and no one seems to be doing anything to sort anything out.

One of the critical instruments of the State, our police force, is totally out of control and no one is taking any responsibility – “I did nothing wrong“…The problem is that you did nothing!!!

But, phew..the crisis has been averted for now and there will be no General Election this side of Christmas – we can all get on with our shopping.

But..what about the Whistleblower??

Somewhere in the mix, the whole point of all of this seems to have gone over everyone’s heads.

What about Maurice McCabe??

Have we heard anyone in authority saying (in a manner that we believe them) that we will not put up with any corruption in our State organisations as it will not be tolerated and any whistleblower will get all of our protection?

Have we heard anyone apologising publicly to Maurice McCabe?

Instead we have listened to horrendous stories of legal strategies against him and “it wasn’t in my jurisdiction to interfere“.

In this country we have legislation that was enacted in 2014 to protect Whistleblowers.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 aims to protect people who raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. The Act, which came into effect on 15 July 2014. It provides for redress for employees who are dismissed or otherwise penalised for having reported possible wrongdoing in the workplace. 

Some of the detail:

(from the Citizens Information Board website)

Under the Act, you make a protected disclosure if you are a worker and you disclose relevant information in a particular way.

Information is relevant if it came to your attention in connection with your work and you reasonably believe that it tends to show wrongdoing.

This wrongdoing may be occurring or suspected to be occurring either inside or outside of the country. Even if the information is proved to be incorrect, you are still protected by the Act provided you had a reasonable belief in the information.

Wrongdoing is widely defined in the Act and includes the commission of criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, endangering the health and safety of individuals, damaging the environment, miscarriage of justice, misuse of public funds, and oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or grossly mismanaged acts or omissions by a public body.

The definition also includes the concealment or destruction of information about any of the above wrongdoing.

The Act gives people anonymity, it describes how people should go about making a Protected Disclosure and it outlines how the Employer must act when presented with a disclosure.

All of this sounds great in practice, and there will be a poor sod who actually believes it and goes about reporting something they feel morally bound to do!! (Ssssh..if he/she was a friend or work colleague of yours what would you whisper in their ear?).

The Big Question?

So, taking the whole recent circus into account, lets be really honest here for a moment.

If you were in the scenario, working for a State body and who felt strongly about some bad crap or “wrongdoing” that was going on where you worked what would you do?

I’m guessing you would either shut up and say nothing (and perpetuate the problem) or just leave.

We have all learnt a big lesson – don’t complain!!

This is a wonderful country..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

Incite or Insight?

April 19, 2017

Ena Kenny and Donald Trump, Patrick's Day

Enda Kenny’s St.Patrick Days trip to the U.S. costs the taxpayer €35,000” read the headline in this newspaper article I read at the weekend.

The article documented blow by blow how and where these costs were accumulated as well as the costs of the other Ministers who travelled overseas for our national festival, that day when the whole world acknowledges and celebrates our little country.

St.Patrick would be a great Marketing/PR trick for Ireland if we had planned it!!

The article was designed to incite the reader in a way that we are seeing all too frequently – It is supposed to get us thinking…

This is a total disgrace

What a waste of money

Typical politicians, on a jolly while the rest of us are paying for it

Why does it cost so much, you can fly to the States and back for €500?

Rage, rage and more rage – thanks for exposing this abomination!!

In my humble view, Enda Kenny’s U.S. trip was well worth every cent and much more as he flew a flag for illegal Irish immigrants and our continued trade in the very delicate Trump era. This simple visit will help to preserve our special relationship with an economy that is more than vital to us.

In terms of the cost of the trip do we really expect the leader of our country to travel Economy, take public transport and book into 3-star hotels?!!

Come on guys, less of the headlines that are designed to incite the typical anger and let’s focus on the insights.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Trust and restoring broken reputations

February 11, 2017

Maurice McCabe

If things weren’t bad before, they became even worse this week for An Garda Síochána when it was revealed that an “incorrect” sexual abuse file was held against Maurice McCabe by Tusla, the family and child protection agency.

Everyone in the media is being extra careful to avoid stating the obvious conclusions as they risk getting into trouble legally. However, they have published the various statements by those parties involved and reported the facts as they came to light and they keep probing and probing for the truth in this sinister mess to reveal itself fully.

Incidents like this demonstrate once again why we need professional, intelligent journalism to bring us the truth as we can’t rely solely on social media to deliver this. Social media is fantastic as it gives us a powerful voice to demonstrate our dissatisfaction as loudly as we feel is appropriate.

We heard the statement by the Garda Commissioner, Nóirín O’Sullivan, the leader of the organisation who has claimed that she know nothing of the sexual abuse shenanigans with the whistleblower, Maurice McCabe.

Tusla in the meantime have issued their own statement claiming that their file against Maurice McCabe with the atrocious false claims against him were a ‘clerical error‘.

The comical little addition to the Tusla story was that their official apology to Maurice McCabe was sent to the wrong address!

The public are no fools and the generally held, unsurprising conclusion about this story is that senior members of the Gardaí who were unhappy with their whistle blowing colleague tried to smear his reputation in the worst possible way to punish him and protect themselves.

Even worse in this sorry saga, Tusla were obviously happy to play ball with their Garda acquaintances.

This stinks to high heaven and leaves all of us with two awful conclusions:

We cannot trust An Garda Síochána and we cannot trust Tusla.

When you consider the crucial role that both of these state bodies are paid to provide, ‘trust‘ is not a negotiable, nice to have attribute. Trust is everything.

What next?

To begin the long road of rebuilding trust in both organisations there can be no more fluffing about and decisive action and clear communication is required.

Our strong advice to those in charge would be to get ahead of the story, remove all doubts and demonstrate in no uncertain way how important regaining trust is.

This is the time for An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny or Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald to take decisive action and remove Nóirín O’Sullivan from her role and get the investigation started immediately.

This is the time for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone to demand a 100% honest statement from the CEO of Tusla, Fred McBride as to what actually happened. If this is as farcical as the ‘clerical error’ statement, he should also be removed from his role.

The reputation of these two state organisations is not negotiable – start demonstrating it.

Greg Canty 

Fuzion provide Crisis PR services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple taxation and 1st World Problems

September 4, 2016

Apple - Irish Tax

What a bizarre scenario!

The EU want to charge Apple for back taxes to the tune of €13 billion – Ireland are supposed to get this money and we are all in a flap because this is an unlawful challenge to our tax system so we are appealing!!

Of course the giant have made colossal money and their tax gurus have used every possible loophole and structure to avoid paying the taxes that we get clobbered with.

Is this right and moral? – this is a great question but Ireland has had this fantastic “anchor tenant” in our country, which has no doubt helped us to attract other high profile foreign tenants.

Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs, has said the commission is “certain” its decision to charge Apple €13 billion in back taxes is legally valid and he went on to say  “There will be no particular targets, and no particular indulgence. No one will escape. Nothing will stop this revolution of transparency.”

Pierre wants to start his own revolution!!

It’s all very strange timing from the EU coming on the heels of the Brexit vote – are they now walloping us for being so adamant and vocal about the importance of our relationship with the U.K.?

In the meantime our government aren’t taking this “attack” lying down as Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan have launched their own blistering attack on Europe over its ruling, accusing Brussels of using the scandal to create a “bridgehead” to target Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax.

Our language got even stronger as they claimed the European Commission was “bullying” Ireland in the same way it did during the bailout.

The boxing gloves are well and truly on with the EU.

The Cabinet made a “unanimous” decision to appeal against the ruling but then the politicians started playing their usual games and two ministers undermined this stance when they said they still believe multinationals are not paying enough to the State. Doh!

It’s all very odd and confusing and it makes you wonder about the world we live in where the story of a genius company led by the true revolutionary, Steve Jobs comes crashing into the story of world politics and taxes or should we just say money.

These are very strange first world problems that other parts of the world would love to have right now..

Boy in ambulance in Syria

This is the recent photograph of five-year-old Omran Daqneesha who was sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo, highlighting the desperation of the Syrian civil war.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communicatons who offer Marketing, PR, GraphicDesign services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Macho politics and the need for femininity

April 8, 2016

Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin

If you mention gender quotas to me you will probably sense my temperature rise and start to notice the steam emerging from different parts of my body!

I want the best person to get the job but I do absolutely believe that we need to do everything to make sure this can be a woman or a man with no disadvantage to either.

However (this is huge coming from me!) watching the political standoff between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the independent candidates and the other parties as Ireland struggles to form a government reminds me of some of the key messages I heard recently at the Network Ireland, International Women’s Day event.

At the conference Gabrielle Motolla (a very impressive American photographer who lives in Iceland) spoke about the worldwide economic crash and a profound comment that was made at the time that “the banking systems lack of femininity caused many of the problems

It wasn’t that there were too many men involved but the point was there was too much “masculinity” in the mix – too much testosterone, too much macho stuff, too much bravado, too much risk taking, too much ultra competitiveness and too many egos recklessly driving the banking system off the cliff.

All of these characteristics can be demonstrated by men or women but they are typically masculine traits so a gender balance could provide some protection against the potentially dangerous excesses of these traits.

This point really impacted on me – I understood exactly what she was saying and I can see the danger myself of too much of any particular trait in an organisation.

I met a Canadian woman at the same conference who operates a large energy company in Canada and we spoke about this issue. She’s not in favour of quotas but she explained that in her business it would be virtually impossible to manage a team of all men and it would be just as difficult with a team of all women.

In her experience the guys are just too macho and the women are too passive and cautious – she reckons a balance works best and in her industry she reckoned 60/40 works best and this is what she strives for when assembling teams.

With our political impasse at the moment I notice that nearly all of the posturing, which is getting us nowhere is very masculine.

We desperately need to sort this out and get our country back on track – maybe we should introduce some femininity and get this process moving?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork

Candidates …Help Me!

February 21, 2016

Voting in 1943

It’s that time again when we get the chance to shape how our country is run by either running for election or by choosing who we want to represent us in Dail Eireann.

Even though I am quite interested in politics and have been living in my area for many years I can honestly say that I don’t know the first thing about pretty much any of the candidates. All manner of literature has been pushed through the letter box (most of this has been quite generic) and election posters decorate the lamp posts on most routes and in the housing estates.

In less than a week I will be expected to cast my votes so between now and then I must make up my mind who I will give them to.

My wish list..

As a business person I will want a pro-business candidate and I do believe that high taxes are a huge demotivator so I will also look for a sensible reduction in taxes. I personally hate the water charges but I detest even more the cohort who are protesting against them.

I believe that everyone in society should be expected to work but that we should look after the elderly and the vulnerable. Finally we shouldn’t have a fear about getting sick in this fantastic country of ours.

Once the politics align with my core beliefs and I believe in the candidate then they have my vote.

I am interested in my own thought process towards the candidates and I have been observing the factors that are influencing my preferences:

Knowing the candidate – My first big observation as I note the different names appearing on the posters is that unlike other constituencies I know none of them except for one candidate!

I find it is incredible that none of the candidates except for one has interacted with me in any way before the election – all candidates are therefore relying 100% on their posters, flyers, canvassing, advertising and late PR to convince me.

Shirley Griffin 1

Professionalism – My second observation is the obvious professionalism and budget that Renua have with their campaign. This is a pre requisite for any party. Their large posters were the first up in the area and there is a huge quantity of them. This would make me consider them a little but the only problem once again is that I have absolutely no idea who Jason Fitzgerald is.

Fitzgerald - Renua

Mickey Mouse – My third observation is how shocking some of the posters are. In my view poor candidate posters are a reflection of themselves and there is no way on earth you could even consider them as your representative.

Shirley Griffin slogan

Shirley Griffin stands out with her second phase of posters, which look like a bunch of kids did them and even worse was Jerry O’Sullivan who definitely won the first prize for amateur hour. Both of these candidates make it very easy for me to dismiss them totally.

O'Sullivan

Personal Bias – My fourth observation is the clear bias that I hold against certain parties and for that reason no poster, flyer or face to face canvass would sway my opinion in favour of them. This for me puts a line through any Sinn Fein, Anti Austerity, People Against Profit or Communist Party candidates.

O'Donnell

Canvassing – My fifth observation is the power of canvassing. I found myself feeling quite positive towards a candidate I would not have considered beforehand due to the pleasant, coherent and polite manner of the person representing them. This surprised me as I always feel the candidate is the person you should meet.

Like many people I am very slow to open the door these days so I suspect this may not be as effective as it used be.

Party Performance – My sixth observation is the power of the TV debates and all the discussion before and after these. Not only do the media evaluate the performance of the parties in detail but it is also becomes a popular topic with people you deal with on an everyday basis.

A strong TV performance for a Party leader will quite possibly have you looking favorably on the local Party candidate who you have never heard of before and vice versa. While I disagree with the high taxation philosophy of the Social Democrats I believe Stephen Donnelly’s TV performances could sway votes for candidates around the country.

In our constituency there is no candidate so all his hard work is a waste this time round!

Social Media – My seventh observation was how invisible most of the candidates in our constituency were during the campaign and during the last few years. Guys…wake up!!!

This is a lot easier than shoe leather and attending endless funerals and is a very effective way of reaching large numbers of voters.

Nothing Changes – My eight and last observation (phew you say!) is that while everything has changed, in many ways nothing has changed and the job of chasing votes is pretty similar to how it always has been.

When I was a kid, I used live across the road from a school that was one of the polling stations. I remember vividly the excitement around voting day and the build up. We were fascinated by the colourful posters and I even remember bringing one home with me. On the day of the elections we used help the guys to hand out last minute flyers for the candidates – I’m sure we earned the odd chocolate bar for our extreme efforts.

Last week while walking “Honey” (the dog, who has since run away again for the third time!) late at night we came across a bunch of kids on their mid-term break who were marching around with an Aine Collins poster. They even stopped so we could photograph them with their favourite politician!

Nothing has changed..

Aine Collins poster

As it turns out Aine Collins, our Fine Gael TD is my favourite as well and she will be getting my No 1. Vote. She is the one that I have got to know quite well over the years and in my view is an intelligent, straight forward, honest, hard working politician who has made a big difference both locally and nationally on quite a number of issues.

She will be the first to admit that things aren’t perfect but I do trust her when she tells me she will try her best to improve them.

I sincerely believe that campaigning is a very tough, expensive and exhausting job and I would genuinely congratulate and thank all of the candidates for putting themselves forward and letting us judge them on the 26th February.

Before we give out about our politicians we must remember that we are the ones that vote for them and if we are not happy with the calibre of who is in front of us then we all have the option of running ourselves (next time!)

What factors are swaying you this time round?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork

 

 

 

Acknowledge and Engage with your audience

February 17, 2016

Stephen Donnelly - Social Democrats

Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats did really well during the General Election Leaders Debate on RTE this week. He comes across as an articulate, intelligent and impressive individual and his performance was one of the things that many people were talking about after.

He won over some of the audience!

While he is very impressive it is very hard to buy into a manifesto that wants to keep taxation high and let the state use those funds. If I thought the public service was capable of spending this money wisely and efficiently there might be some merit in his arguments but this just isn’t the case.

Also this high personal taxation philosophy is a huge deterrent for human talent to work and live in Ireland. Sorry Stephen – people want to be able to enjoy the spoils of their labour and will move to more favourable regimes such as the UK to make that possible.

However, Stephen did impress..

My other half, Deirdre Waldron said as much on Twitter (I would consider her to have a lot of influential followers) and effectively she gave his performance a big ‘thumbs up‘ publicly. She wasn’t the only one who did this I noticed.

The Golden Opportunity

While this online endorsement is great for Stephen it leaves a huge ‘Opportunity‘ door wide open for him to walk through. Of course it’s up to him and his team to grab this opportunity.

What if he could do something really simple to grab this tangible goodwill and take it to a higher level?

What if he could do something really easy to take this positive feedback and convert it into a supporter or a fan even?

What if he could take a few little seconds and grab a simple chance to show an online audience that he is a really great and very popular guy?

What if he decides to do nothing?

Do does nothing ..

Dee is thinking …hmm, I said something complimentary and it wasn’t even acknowledged. That’s not very nice, I won’t do that again.

That positive impression has wilted a little

He likes the post..

Dee is thinking…hmm, It’s nice to see that he acknowledged the positive thing that I said. He is one of the good guys.

That positive impression has been reinforced and she might even repeat the positive posts about him in the future.

He engages with the post..

This is the ‘Holy Grail‘ of social media and it is the big prize, the gift, the one thing that is waiting there to be easily plucked from the tree.

Stephen tweets back: “thanks a million” or even better “thanks a million Dee, I appreciate the positive feedback” or even better again “thanks a million Dee, our campaign is really connecting with people

Dee is thinking..hmm, this guy is the real deal, he would be a great person to have working for us in Dail Eireann. I’m going to follow him and listen carefully to all of his proposals and arguments and I might take his local candidates more seriously.

Now Stephen has won her over and one vote turns into two and so on..

Why is it not happening?

Maybe this very sharp and intelligent guy who is out there giving it everything, just doesn’t get this simple trick? Maybe he just doesn’t have the time? – I’m sure he doesn’t but he can surely get someone who understands his message intimately enough to assist him with his Twitter account.

These are easy wins for Stephen and so many of the other politicians who have positive momentum. If they are serious about getting each of those precious votes then grab the golden opportunities by jumping in – Acknowledge and Engage.

For the rest of us the argument is exactly the same with our online communications:

  • Acknowledge your nice posts
  • Don’t be afraid to have a conversation
  • Say thank you!

The opportunities are there …grab them!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion offer Social Media Consultancy and Training from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland