VIEW: It’s beginning to heat up on the Louth election campaign trail
May 24. That's the all-important date deeply notched on every incumbent and prospective local election candidate’s wall chart right now. The date of the local council elections.
It's nearly 16 weeks until then, but the campaign to see who represents the people of this county at council level, is already hotting up.
With the hangover of Christmas and the stasis of January now firmly shook off, the real game begins in earnest. The Democrat's email inbox is ticking over nicely with fresh press releases from those seeking a tilt at being a councillor on a near daily basis.
There are 29 seats to be filled in total across the county, with north Louth and Ardee taking 19 of those (leaving 10 for Drogheda).
These next 16 weeks are going to test the mettle of anyone looking to grab one of those all-important seats.
Make no mistake though, it takes considerable depths of reserve and strength of character to run for any public office. It's a matter of scale to go from local councillor to TD - the effort and workrate is essentially on a par.
Pressing the flesh and getting your face in as many photographs as possible was always basic the nuts and bolts of the publicity strategy for politicians on the move, and despite changes in modern media and communication, that still holds true today.
But, whereas in the past, press events were more structured, ordered and clearly defined, modern social media’s insistence on an instant view and full access has changed all that.
Even those that campaigned just four years ago will see a vast change in how the mission unfolds this time around.
But the most important aspect - from a democratic point of view - is increasing public interest in local politics in general.
Politics on a national and international level has become more in vogue and of interest to a younger generation now, a generation which just four years ago may have shrugged their shoulders and rolled their eyes at the thoughts of an election.
The emergence of so-called 'populist' politics has had a lot to do with this of course - both for and against. Young people are much more engaged with politics on a larger level today. Social media has been both a blessing for the democratic process and, depending on your perspective, a curse too.
Can this same level of heightened engagement be repeated at a local level, were the issues are sometimes looked at as being more mundane and run of the mill?
The next 16 weeks should shed some light on that particular quandary for the candidates.
But energising the young vote really needs to be the cornerstone of any candidate's strategy this time. But it's still a hard sell and will require some ‘outside of the box’ thinking.
The proposal to ban election posters on council property, which will be discussed at Tuesday night’s council meeting, is a sign of the times. But it's a unique approach considering no other county in the country has proposed such a ban.
The impact it will have on any election campaign is hard to gauge.
There are many for and against it and many convincing arguments on each side too.
Either way, the next few months are going to be very interesting for the politically-minded folk of County Louth.
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