The Secret Canvasser

The secret canvasser surveys his work. Original photograph: www.droghedalife.com

We asked an insider what it was like putting up election posters in the days after the general election was announced. This is what they told us…

As the sun struggled to rise over south Louth, a stream of untaxed cars and vans navigated the narrow country lane that resembled an artillery range. The convoy observed strict radio silence, though several drivers wondered if this precluded the use of their Creedence cassettes. The tape decks reflected the age of their vehicles and complimented their cover story.

– Ah sure we’re just on our way to a vintage run beyant in Ballapoushta Guard…Ah Jaysus no she’s taxed sure…the young lad musta robben the disc. Jacinta’s keepin’ well is she?

The convoy made their way to the sleepy Parish hall. After years of craw thumping and infiltration the group had finally risen to a position of power on the Parish Council. All those years of selling bottles of Score Cola and flipping burgers at school sports days had paid off.

Shamey ‘The Ladder’ Murphy stepped out of his former An Post van and strode up to the door key in hand. He carried the key like a Field Marshall’s baton, because for Shamey, this was a proud moment. As he unlocked the door he could hear murmurs of anticipation from the canvassers behind; like those involuntary grunts that escape Meath men when they catch sight of the fairer sex.

A proud and pigeon-chested Shamey surveyed the scene as he held the door open; the long struggle to prominence in parish and macra circles now a distant memory.

Youse dont worry about that, the lads on the night shift will have a good arsenal of enemy posters, by dawn they should have them up, blocking sightlines at dangerous junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights, at polling stations… you know yourself.

– Right lads fall in. You all know why you’re here. Today is the start of ayr canvassing and postering. The stakes couldn’t be higher. We expect every man to do his duty. Now form up into squads of three and four.

Secret canvasser

As the men formed up, Shamey spread a tattered ordnance survey map on a rickety table covered in pro-Bon Jovi graffiti. A lot of the canvassers and poster boys were wet behind the ears, green.

– At least they’re not Greens, he thought to himself. If he had any concerns about them he hid them well.

– Right lads, you have your orders, you know whats expected. Questions?

– I’ve one Shamey, whats the story with spiteful postering?

– Good man Hugh, good ceist. Youse dont worry about that, the lads on the night shift will have a good arsenal of enemy posters, by dawn they should have them up, blocking sightlines at dangerous junctions, roundabouts, traffic lights, at polling stations… you know yourself.

– No, I meant if theres double poles do we poster both to spite our enemy and deprive them the use of it or what?

– Well as we all know, one of ayrs is worth two O’Dowds. Employ the 3 to 1 ratio. You know the routine lads.

Yiz all have yisr leaflets, marking boards, and suspicious umbrellas. Questions?

Shamey was now giddy with the prospects of his 400th election and all the men rearing to go.

– Now lads mind them ladders we’d hate to damage ‘other’ posters.

At this point the men let out a collectie war cry. The pre-battle war cries resounded around the 1970s semi-asbestos hall.

Restoring order Shamey’s voice took on a serious tone.

– Our intel has told us that the Callan posters have a fatal flaw; they only have 2 tie wraps per poster. The spacing between these is too great to carry the weight of his big head. They’re also too wide so they are so don’t waste your time fleecing his posters. Just give them a little prod in the back and that’ll be enough to help old Mr. Wind and old Mrs. Gravity do their work.

– And another thing. You all have yisr black maakurs. Those of youse that don’t have WD40 have been issued with two blocks of Frytex. You know the drill – last man down the

IMG_3928
The secret canvasser putting up or taking down an election poster on Narrow West Street?

ladder greeses the pole. In cases were poles are located above spikey railings, traffic, or alsations I want each squad to use WD40 and the Frytex. No messin’, hit them haaad, then move on. Posterersssss dis…..missed!’

As the first three squads left via a side door Shamey paced up and down the hall reviewing the remaining canvassers addressing some by name and feeling more like Alexander before Gaugamela, than Shamey before canvassing Walshestown.

– Right lads, sorry youse had to hear that, but yiz all earnted yisr stripes on the postering trail so its nothin’ new. Youse are my shock troops, my black squadron. Youse are all chosen men, picked for your good looks and honey tongued political observations.

It’s not junk mail lad, its election literature.

– I’m not goanna lecture youse, yiz know the form. Two to a door, stick together and hold the line in estates, if one breaks it leaves the rest open to ambush. Yiz all have yisr leaflets, marking boards, and suspicious umbrellas. Questions?

A newcomer spoke up.

– What if no ones home and there’s a sign of the door sayin NO JUNK MAIL?

Shamey seethed with rage, who was this newcomer putting the whole operation into question? He suspected this was a sleeper planted by the recently cash rich Baltray Residents’ Intelligence Service.

– Who the fuuk are you?! he bellowed reaching for an inside pocket. A veteran stepped forward placing his hand on Shameys.

– This is Peadar’s eldest lad, he was out in the locals, he’s with me.

Regaining calm Shamey smiled at the young lad and placed a hand on his shoulder.

– It’s not junk mail lad, its election literature. You stay with Frank here today and he’ll learn yeh the ropes. If you encounter a sign that says no election leaflets, then you reach for our enemies leaflets that you have secreted on your person, carefully mind. About 6 of these leaflets should go in one letter box.

– If you encounter general abuse that’s just aimed at politicians in general don’t give yourselves away. Calmly nod and then when they finish tell them that Fergus O’ Dowd said they can shove their vote up their hole!

 If you encounter a sign that says no election leaflets, then you reach for our enemies leaflets that you have secreted on your person, carefully mind. About 6 of these leaflets should go in one letter box.

– We know who ayr opponents are. After canvassing them and being fucked off I want to employ a new tactic. If the terrain lends itself, yiz can make use of gaaden shrubry to conceal yisrselves and when the time is right ye should be able to smear dog shit under the door handles. By gawd we’ll show them what a smear campaign really smells like!

– If youse get caught follow procedure. Do trap six; shedding as many Blueshirt leaflets as you can. If you encounter anyone no harm to fuck them off as you go. Be careful. Stick together and we’ll be alright. Ok lads lets move out.

Shamey watched the convoy of clapped out cars leave the car park. Once more tears were filling his eyes. Though this time he wasn’t sure if it was the smell of the dog shit he carried in his pocket ready to use, or the freshly spread chicken excrement on the surrounding fields.


No posters were harmed or canvassers lost during the writing of this piece.

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