Twitter the double-edged sword for Politicians, it has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way political message into a real-time dialogue with voters all over Ireland. Sometimes with hilarious and dire consequence’s. It has given political party handlers all over the country nightmares and will continue to do so. One of the main issues facing Irish politicians and political PR types is the realisation that once a controversial tweet is sent, it may be deleted but the damage never undone.
Twitter has an overbearing left-wing liberal bias as was shown in this Washington Post study called What Twitter gets wrong. Twitter should never be used as a political barometer in Ireland, not just yet, as only small percentage of population actually use twitter and even less so for political reasons. In only rare cases has Twitter been representative of the actual realpolitik on the ground in Ireland. None the less a well-timed or reckless tweet can do real political damage.
Did this tweet change the course of the 2011 Irish Presidential election ? Some will claim it did. Even though the McGuinness campaign claimed in no way was the tweet related to their campaign, the damage was done. A master stroke Machiavelli would have been proud of. The tweet to this day still haunts Pat Kenny.
Minister Coveney’s tweet did something that had not been done in Irish politics before, he legitimized what everyone else was tweeting about. It was a perfectly well timed tweet, social media had been ablaze during the morning Ireland interview with claims that the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen sounded drunk. Most political hacks would never use twitter as a source for claiming the Taoiseach sounded hung over or drunk. Once Simon Coveney, a senior front bench member of Fine Gael tweeted what he thought, it became a genuine full-blown story and a public relations nightmare for Fianna Fáil. The party handler who thought it was a good idea for Cowen to give that interview sounding as he did, should hang their heads in political shame for ever.
Dan Boyle of the Green Party, The father of tweeting Irish Politicians. One of first Irish politicians to take to twitter with such gay abandon. More infamously he seemed intent on bringing down the Government which he was part of, through the medium of twitter. Willie “the coffin chaser” O’Dea was found not only to be lying, but lying in a sworn affidavit about comments he made to a journalist about Sinn Féin councillor Maurice Quinlivan. The Green Party were bounced into a confidence vote for the coffin chaser, but Boyle’s tweet demanded more action be taken. Willie O’Dea subsequently resigned as Minister for defence and has never regained credibility.
The Labour Senator from Donegal, Jimmy “the hit man” Harte gave one of the first examples of an Irish Politician other the Paul Gogarty having a meltdown on twitter. Jimmy’s meltdown was in relation to a controversy over an article in the Irish Independent that focused on the interpretation and translation of a piece in a Polish newspaper about a Polish woman living on social welfare in Ireland. Senator “hit man” Harte said that the woman in question should “go home”. Senator Harte even offered to buy the ticket himself. He then took to twitter to insult everyone that questioned his judgement. What follows is a lesson in how not to use twitter if you are a politician.