“You stay classy gang...” The negative side of social media campaigning

If you want to see your local candidates taking potshots at each other - then look no further than Facebook or Twitter

“You stay classy gang...” The negative side of social media campaigning


With General Election issues generating more than three million interactions on Facebook since November 2015 and over 35,000 tweets sent during the first live leaders debates alone, it is hard for political parties and candidates not to stand up and take notice of the potential that social media yields.

Over the course of the campaign so far, we have seen many such candidates rising to the opportunity and engaging with voters in new and innovative ways. However the increasing popularity of utilising these social media channels has also created a space for the more negative aspects of this way of campaigning.

It all began back in January with Fianna Fáil’s billboard campaign featuring an image of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, a remake of the party’s 2007 advert in which he promised “to end the scandal of patients on trolleys”.

Enda Kenny responded to the ad by saying: “Contrary to Fianna Fáil’s fear, I am not, and nobody in my party will indulge in personal attacks on anybody in the Fianna Fáil party, or indeed any other party with attack party politics.”

Alas, it appears the Fine Gael party have not stuck true to their word, on this occasion anyway. During the TV3/Newstalk leaders debate the official Fine Gael Twitter account and associated branches sent numerous tweets that surely constitute as ‘attack party politics’.

In addition, Fine Gael’s latest Facebook ad campaign arguably does appear to indulge in personal attacks on members of other political parties, namely Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

These ads have been met with much criticism online, amidst the latest polls which show the support for the major coalition partner is slipping.

It appears Former Justice Minister and Fine Gael candidate in Dublin Rathdown, Alan Shatter also wants in on the blame game and debunks the ‘alternative’ in his latest campaign video which asks, "is this what you want, what you really, really want?".

Alan Shatter TD shared Ronnie Neville's postRonnie Neville3 hrs · Dublin · Friends, if any of you are wavering in your determination to sustain the recovery, just take a look at the alternative! Is this what you want, what you really, really want?

Posted by Alan Shatter TD on Saturday, 13 February 2016

Not to be outdone, ‘for the weekend that’s in it’ Sinn Féin had the ultimate (anti-)Valentine’s Day message for their supporters:

For the weekend that's in it...

Posted by Sinn Féin Ireland on Saturday, 13 February 2016

So far in the campaign most parties have been adopting the use of explainer videos, gifs and infographics to spread their General Election messages with sharable and engaging content. The Labour Party’s gif, which demonstrates their record on employment in Government which they released during Fianna Fáil’s Ard Fheis, is a perfect example of this.

Their photo-shopping skills have also been placed elsewhere in more recent times - at the expense of Billy Kelleher and Willie O’Dea, or indeed Nancy and Imelda from the original image. This led to a bit of a spat between the two parties on Twitter over the weekend.

While some people believe there is a place in Irish politics for negative campaigning, does the personal ‘attack’ messaging speak to anyone outside of your already engaged, active support base? We’ll find out after February 26th.

Live from @ElectionNT