Last Saturday I was strolling through Cork when I happened upon some street entertainment- there was children's face painting, live music, a big net full of balloons and entertainers. I then spotted a number of young people sporting blue jackets handing out pens and other paraphernalia on behalf of Fine Gael.
At first I thought that Fine Gael was simply making the most of an event that had been organised by the council or some other organisation, but then I realised that it was actually Fine Gael who had put it together. After a while and with a small crowd of people milling around and listening to the music while chatting to party activists, Fine Gael's Ireland South MEP Colm Burke stood on a box and made a brief speech. Then the balloons were released and the music continued. Throughout the rest of the day I spotted a number of people walking around with 'Vote Burke 1' stickers on their jackets and children with their faces painted.
Regardless of what party people in the south support, it would be hard to deny that this was an interesting and fun way of engaging with voters. Ok, maybe it had nothing to do with policies or principles, but when there's plenty of talk about these things elsewhere, is it any harm to add a bit of colour here and there? Fine Gael used this event to convey the idea that they have a lighter side during dark economic times and their candidate dancing in the street to live music was a change from the stereotypical staid pre-election stunt.
In the north, sometimes I think we can get caught up in the political process to the extent that many voters get turned off, particularly by dull rhetoric and canvassers going through the motions. Particularly in European elections there is a need to engage effectively with voters as many have more interesting things to attract their attention.
Whether Fine Gael, and particularly Colm Burke, do well remains to be seen. I don't know specifically what Burke stands for but I know his name, I know he has young people canvassing support for him and I know he's game for a bit of craic. I also know that I've now blogged about him and posted a video on YouTube. If people who are entitled to vote in Cork have had a similar experience, then surely that a good thing for him and his party heading into an election.