02 April 2005

Daily Ireland

TAKE FIVE - Good luck to the canvass junkies

Government and media in Dublin can rest easy again. Easter is over. The anxiety they feel about how to recall events leading directly to the birth of their state – which involved men and women with loads of guns but not a single mandate between them – has passed for another year.
For those not afflicted by either collective amnesia or historical revisionism the vision of the Easter 1916 Proclamation is very much alive. Spurred on by speeches at numerous commemorations this past weekend, they are eager for the forthcoming elections; another opportunity to again take on their opponents and embarrass their detractors at the ballot box where Sinn Féin will again increase its mandate.
It all began in 1981 when an excited young helper on the Bobby Sands election campaign quipped to Bernadette McAliskey: “This is more fun than stripping down and reassembling an Armalite.” Today the canvass junkies strain at the leash waiting for the green light.
It used to be the crack of a pistol shot that got them going but that was in bygone days, recalled now only late at night, misty-eyed, in a shebeen, over a drop of the hard stuff (preferably the illicit variety; it tastes more subversive). These people look on canvassing and the electoral process as a military operation.
They scour the roads and streets looking for the ideal spot to ambush the potential voter with a carefully positioned poster. They have a green canvass and a yellow canvass (interesting colour code). They know which households have transport to the polling stations and even what model and make. “And what about the young one at university? Will she be home to vote?”
Addictions need to be fed and canvass junkies have been well catered for in that regard. It’s been a case of one fix after another. As with any addiction there is always the belief that if they can just get that one more “high” then everything will be OK.
The world will be a brighter place. They will be able to deal with a multitude of problems, make friends easier, live healthy, peaceful and more successful lives.
With sobriety come some harsh realities. But that’s not the concern of the canvass junkie. Their job is done. And if done successfully then others will be better placed to deal with the inevitable withdrawal symptoms that must follow. Good luck to the junkies.

Laurence McKeown was a republican prisoner for 16 years in Long Kesh and spent 70 days on the 1981 hunger strike. He is the author of a doctoral thesis, the co-author of a feature film, H3 and two plays, The Laughter of Our Children and A Cold House.

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