Subscriber OnlyMedia

Message from the Editor: The long road to elections

Politicians are never not in election more; for journalists, preparation for elections also means a long lead-in time


Politicians are never not in election mode. Certainly not in a hyper-local system such as Ireland’s, which rewards those who tend to their constituencies and punishes those who don’t. But for journalists, too, elections have a long lead-in time. At The Irish Times, our first meetings to plan coverage of the June 7th local and European elections took place more than a year ago. Members of our editorial and technology teams have been working long hours to fine-tune a new back-end system that can give our readers the results of each count as they come in. It’s a big logistical project: our reporters at count centres across the country will enter the figures into our new election results database (known internally by its acronym, “Nerd”) so that they appear as a real-time graphic on our website and app.

Beyond the counts, a great deal of thought goes into coverage of the campaigns themselves. Who will we have where? How to pace the coverage and ensure fairness? How do we position ourselves to react to unexpected events? How to get the most from our different media: the site, the app, the paper, podcasts and video? And – a reflection of the current social climate – how do we ensure the safety of our journalists?

In the last few days, three weeks out from polling day, we published the results of our latest Irish Times/Ipsos B&A opinion poll. The first set of results showed that Sinn Féin’s recent slide continues, with the party down a further 5 points to leave it level with Fine Gael on 23 per cent. Fianna Fáil is stable on 20 per cent and its leader, Micheál Martin, is by some distance the most popular party leader.

Yesterday we published a new set of results, this time for the European elections, which suggest the three big parties are set to win seats in each of three constituencies. Support for far-right and anti-migration candidates appears to be too dispersed to give them much of a chance, but with a significant share of voters yet to make up their minds and many people still only tuning into the campaigns, a great deal could change between now and June 7th. “It’s not just game on,” writes Political Editor Pat Leahy. “It’s more, let the mad scramble commence, and devil take the hindmost.”


That’s one of many election-related pieces I’d recommend this weekend. Elsewhere, Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray tells you everything you need to know on the upcoming ballots; Jade Wilson goes canvassing with Ciao Benício, the Deliveroo driver who intervened during a horrific knife attack on Parnell Square in Dublin and is now a local election candidate for Fianna Fáil; and Political Correspondent Harry McGee speaks to a Limerick local election candidate who says her team were traumatised by racist abuse they received on the campaign trail. Finally, there are two staples of our election coverage that any self-respecting politico should follow closely: Miriam Lord’s columns (her latest is here) and the Inside Politics podcast.

Those of you who read The Irish Times in print at the weekend or who, as premium subscribers, avail of our epaper, will have noticed that we launched an expanded and redesigned Weekend supplement yesterday. Among the additions are a weekly interview, which this weekend is Keith Duggan’s conversation with the TV anchor and former White House adviser George Stephanopoulos; a new column by the novelist Sarah Moss; and a weekly essay, the first of which is a reflection on the impact of the remarkable 1994 TV drama Family by the man who wrote it, Roddy Doyle.

Some stories come out of nowhere. Who would have expected that an art installation on North Earl Street in Dublin city would be one of the most talked-about topics of the week? If you want to know what the fuss is about, start with Ronan McGreevy’s primer. The erection of the portal was “a heroic act of denial,” writes Fintan O’Toole. While “inner Dublin can indeed be cool and cosmopolitan, it is also a space defined by friction. It crackles with the static tension of social divisions and contradictions. The portal represents one side of the city – the vibrant, high-tech, prosperous, optimistic side. But it had to look out too on the other side – the angry, resentful, alienated and chaotic side.”

Also in our newly-expanded Opinion section, you’ll find some excellent columns by Mark O’Connell, Cliff Taylor, Megan Nolan,  David McWilliams, Jennifer O’Connell and Trinity College student Rachel Moiselle, who writes that the anti-Semitism she sees in Ireland harks back to her ancestors’ experience here.

Colm Tóibín is incapable of giving a dull interview; he duly obliged when Keith Duggan met him in Manhattan to discuss Long Island, his sequel to the bestselling Brooklyn.

Shane Lowry nearly made history yesterday at the US PGA Championship at Valhalla, but whatever happens on the course today, the event will be remembered for the arrest on Friday of the world’s best golfer, Scottie Scheffler. You won’t read a better piece on the episode than this by Malachy Clerkin. Elsewhere in Sport, we have columns by Nicky English, Dean Rock, Matt Williams and Kevin Kilbane.

Finally, we broke the sad news last night of the death of the businessman Tony O’Reilly. The news story includes some reaction to his passing, and our obituary gives a comprehensive account of “Ireland’s first business superstar”.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic


We value your views. Please feel free to send comments, feedback or suggestions for topics you would like to see covered to