They say the early bird gets the worm, but there are clearly a number of political types around Galway City and County who’ve never heard the maxim.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to tar all the candidates with the same brush. Some, such as Labour’s Niall McNelis, have been campaigning ferociously behind the scenes since before Christmas, while others, such as Green Niall O Brolcháin, have been upping their publicity and their visibility since long before that.
Whether you’re an advocate of the canvassing-is-everything method, or the publicity-gimmick way of doing things, there’s no doubt that being well-known early on is an advantage.
Even if a candidate is well known as a pillar of their community, becoming well known as a candidate as soon as is humanly possible, is crucial.
A lot of candidates make the fatal mistake of presuming people know they are running. Wrong. Nobody knows unless they are told – by the candidate, their campaigners, or the media.
And the protection, or even mentoring, of a political party is not always helpful in this. While Independent candidates can have trouble getting out there (lack of know-how is the main culprit here, but a lack of contacts and ‘party machine’ can also hinder Independents), those running for political parties can have even more trouble.
And there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that this is the case, particularly for rural candidates.
One problem of running within the confines of the party system is that there is usually a sitting candidate who does not want a running mate. They, with minimum five years of contact with local VIPs and media, can make it very difficult for a new candidate to get a foothold.
Another is that political party ‘head offices’ are widely known to be very controlling. They have a strategy, they have a wider aim, and one candidate in Ballinasloe, or Tuam, or wherever, is not going to distract that.
As one party press officer admitted to me recently, “Sure we have hundreds of candidates, I wouldn’t have the names… could you not ring Cllr X?”
Cllr X, who clearly does not want upstarts ruining his chances, is not going to be the best advocate of his new ticketmates, now is he?
So there are candidates all over the country, not least in Galway, whose announcements are not making it as far as local press, who do not have photos of themselves for papers, and whose very existence is questionable, given that many of them don’t appear to have their own contact details.
With less than two months left to the election, candidates who are only now declaring are in serious trouble. While some, like Independent Daniel Callanan, have been strategically delaying their announcement in order to guarantee mounting suspense and more coverage despite being pretty much certain to run (a strategy that didn’t really work),