They were not happy at all, and that’s the pure truth.
They were together on the pole, at about eyebrow level. They were united in their criticism of the babble of political infighting they could hear, coming from the raft of new, young-candidate posters, away above them, almost all the way up to the wires. Most of those were imprinted with unfamiliar, youthful countenances of both sexes, and most bore the legend ‘Independent’.
I gathered quickly that the rueful old-timers I was hearing were called Gael and Fail, and they have known each other for many decades now, and fought many elections. They know the score, for sure. “Dammit” said Gael, “some of them lads and lasses above should still be wearing nappies. They will be sodden and soaked and ripped off this pole long before the election at all. Never heard so much b..........t in my life, as this morning. Do you know what they were fighting over, some of them, some of your lads, too, for that matter? They were debating the name of what they think will be the next Government, according to them. The choice, they said, was between Sinn Fail, for a name, or Fianna Fein! It was as much as I could do to keep my mouth shut, but I wouldn’t lower myself to get involved with any of them.”
“Yerra, we were young and foolish ourselves, too, long ago, when we started. Remember, all the years when you and I wouldn’t even speak to each other?” is what Fail said in response. “God knows, that’s the truth, too”.
Fail was silent for a second or two, and then he said there were a couple of things that worried him this time around. One was the sheer number of Independents and single-issue clients on the pole above them, and the second was that their candidate photographs were so old he was concerned that voters on the doorsteps would not recognise their men at all.
Both had aged a lot over their many years in Dáil Éireann, and the soft life had bred triple chins on both of them.
“Agreed,” said Gael. “My fellow’s photo was taken when he was still able to play for the club, for Heaven’s sake, and the only thing he is able to run for now is for re-election, with all the weight he’s stacked on. I agree with you, too, about the number of competing names here on the pole above us. You know, and I know, that the greater the number of Independents in the Dáil, after this joust is over, then the greater the chance that you and I are likely to be shivering and drenched on this bloody pole, three or four times in the next 18 months. Cursed Independents rock the boat, for sure. You depend on them, when you know well you can’t depend on them at all. I’m not looking forward to the next couple of years, for sure.”
And then Fail sighed so deeply, it sounded like an April gust, and he said “it is different now to when we started, is it not? Remember back to when you and I were tacked high up on the pole, near the wires, by active enthusiastic canvassers for our fellows, running up stepladders as quick as lightning, no opposition except, maybe, an odd Labour lad with no real chance, and one of us was certain to top the poll at the count.
“Now, we are slipping down the pole, because our canvassing teams have got too old and heavy to go up the ladders the way they used to. And a fair few of them are dead. It looks like we’re slipping down the polls as well. It’s a different Ireland now, Gael, my old friend”.
And, at this point, a sharp, female voice called down from the poster jungle above them, saying “shut up, you old codgers, for God’s sake. Ye have done enough damage already. Ye should be ashamed of yourselves, so ye should!”
And, dammit, even though I listened closely for nearly a minute, by the clock, the two old-timers did indeed remain silent.
Incredible! I went on my way, leaving all the posters shuddering and shivering in a shower of April hailstones and, as I departed, would ye believe that one of the Independent posters yielded to the hailstones and winds and was torn from the pole, as I watched.
I don’t have the word power to deal any further with such a complex equation as this.
I can only report on what I heard and saw. And that, finally, is the pure truth.