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The Dublin indie scene, Dylan Haskins and the UVF

haskins
In a column many years ago, Kevin Myers analysed the unorthodox power structures of the UVF. By his reckoning, he said, about half the members of that organisation held the rank of O/C or higher. In other words, the average UVF Officer Commanding could only have commanded one volunteer.

In some respects, the Dublin rock community reminds me a little of the UVF. It’s a vibrant scene, with a large coterie of enthusiastic devotees. But from the outside at least, the movers and shakers – that is to say, the band members, promoters, journalists, bloggers, photographers and assorted hangers on – have always seemed vastly to outnumber the actual punters. It’s a quirk of geography, really. Dublin is large city in a very small country. Consequently, the music scene here tends to be self-contained, self-congratulatory and perpetually inward looking. In a roundabout way, this is why I was fascinated by the independent candidacy of 23-year-old Dylan Haskins in the election just past.

I’m probably the only journalist in Dublin who doesn’t know Dylan personally. In fact, until January 30th, I’d never even heard of the guy. But it was clear from his CV, and from the immediate avalanche of support he received on Twitter and elsewhere, that the momentum driving his candidacy came firmly from within the indie/arts fraternity.

One had to admire Dylan for having the balls to stand up and be counted in a race where it would have been far easier to sit on the sidelines grumbling like the rest of us. But I was intrigued to see how a member of such an insular subculture would go about relating, and making his case to, the ordinary constituents of Dublin South East.

My initial impressions were of Haskins were very favourable. He was clearly an energetic, ambitious and well spoken young man. And people I knew who had dealt with him personally all spoke of him in the highest terms. His policy platform was a tad naive, sure, but no more so than you would expect from someone of his tender years.

Considering Haskins’ age and inexperience, it was obvious from the outset that he and his supporters stood no real chance of taking a seat. But given the incredible campaign this group of political novices mounted, there was an expectation that they might at least have made it into the final shake up. When that didn’t happen, his supporters were understandably disappointed.

Without detracting from their efforts, and without any special insight beyond that of a casual observer, I humbly offer a few thoughts on where I think the campaign might have faltered:

1. Launching in the Andrew’s Lane Theatre. The hipster haunt probably seemed a natural fit for Haskins’s campaign. But in terms of reaching out to the wider electorate, this was equivalent to Dick Cheney launching a presidential bid from his undisclosed location. As Bill O’Reilly would say, it’s all about the folks.

2. An over-emphasis on the role of Haskins’ arty mates. Some of those who shilled for Dylan might draw a lot of water in the creative community, but their names won’t have meant much to the electors of Dublin South East. To give just one example, fully an entire minute of Haskins’ second campaign video was spent talking about the people who had helped him make his first campaign video. It was a decent presentation alright, but I imagine the electorate had more pressing concerns.

3. The top button issue. Sorry, I realise I’m the umpteenth person to bring this up. Maybe it’s my west of Ireland upbringing. But to my mind, the only fashion statement a male political candidate should ever try to make is that he is capable of dressing himself. Beyond that, why should the electorate waste time wondering why your candidate looks like a member of Seona Dancing, when they could be wondering whether he’s the man to fix their potholes and/or renegotiate our national debt?

4. Too much international media. The Guardian, The New York Times, Sky News, Al Jazeera et al are all very impressive. But how many votes were won or lost there?

As I said, none of this is to detract in any way from the remarkable achievements of the Haskin’s campaign in the 2011 general election campaign. Kudos to all involved. I mean only to suggest one or two ways in which this performance might be build upon in future local and general elections in the years to come.

Unless the whole campaign was a one-off stunt designed to facilitate the making of a fly-on-the-wall documentary about a hipster who stood for elected office… In which case, I’ve just wasted a couple of hours writing this and you can all go and shite.

March 4th, 2011.

24 Responses to “The Dublin indie scene, Dylan Haskins and the UVF”

  1. Eoin B Says:

    Yes, from the outset, the campaign did not seem like it was aimed at the people who VOTE in Dublin South East. Sure, the themes of youth and the arts will appeal to many people LIVING in the constituency but who are not actually registered to vote there.

    One evening, Dylan tweeted that he was going canvassing in Portobello, one of the most transient areas in Dublin.

    Perhaps, he should have launched his campaign a week or two earlier and then began a voter registration drive to get young people/students living in Dublin South East to switch their vote to there from their home constituency.

  2. Des Says:

    I think he’s only 23 and looks younger than that again. RBB and Ming the Merciless have shown what can be achieved if you dig in for the long haul. Well done Dylan!

  3. Captain Piranha Says:

    Fuck of. Over privileged twat playing politics with Daddys dough. Who cares?

  4. Eoin Says:

    @ Eoin B – Fair points, but also important to remember that this was first ever campaign for most involved. Minor tactical errors certainly forgivable.

    @ Des – Absolutely agreed. Shows that Irish electorate pretty broadminded once the candidate has demonstrated commitment to working on local issues.

    @ CP – I really hate it when people comment “who cares” on blog posts. If you don’t care, don’t read the article and don’t bother replying.

    Also, from what I understand, you’re dead wrong about Haskins’ coming from a privileged background. Funny how many people make that assumption based, I presume, upon his name, his accent and his rather Aryan appearance. It should be irrelevant either way, but given that the perception was out there, maybe campaign should have done more to emphasise where he actually come from.

  5. Jonathan M Says:

    I think this is a very fair and perceptive article on a candidate who was massively overhyped but who definitely shows potential for the future — if he decides to stick with it for the long haul that is.

  6. Andrew Says:

    All fair observations, I reckon. I was briefly Dylan’s youth club leader, which makes me feel like I’m horribly old and a fierce underachiever. I had nothing whatsoever to do with his campaign but he got my vote and I was genuinely disappointed not to see him do a bit better. “More Facebook friends than votes” was the jeer that went around afterwards, which was a little misleading, given that inevitably lots of his Facebook friends wouldn’t live in Dublin South-East. He and Mannix Flynn were both strong independent candidates who would’ve represented the area well, but in the end I reckon they simply lost out to pragmatism, as people realised that it was going to be Fine Gael and Labour and that they’d better pick which one they liked best. And in the end we got two of each. Dylan and Mannix probably had a broader profile and more momentum behind them than Kevin Humhreys or Eoghan Murphy did, but they simply weren’t attached to blue or red and in the end they lost out by a good margin. Successes like Ming, Shane Ross and Mick Wallace are heartening to see but they sprang from much bigger bases. Dylan will have years yet to decide if this is something he really wants, but I imagine it was Mannix’s last chance.

  7. Fenster Says:

    Captain Piranha,

    your daddy’s money remark is truer than you think, but for other reasons,

    *following may be be the exact truth but is something approaching more or less the truth*

    Dylan’s dad died about 4 years ago and Dylan inherited the family home in Blackrock (or close to) which he set up as a social space for art and gigs, called the hideaway house, I think he recently sold the house and is using the proceeds to put himself through college and support his campaign

    anyway, as has been said, I think Dylan seems to be a bright young guy with a lot of ideas who if he sticks with it, could definitely forge a long career in politics in the future

  8. Eoin Says:

    @ Andrew – I don’t agree. It’s proportional representation. I think most people understood that they could vote for Dylan and, if he was eliminated, their vote would to their second preference.

    To be honest, I assumed Haskins would get somewhere in the region of 400-500 first preferences (his base was young people, and young people by and large don’t vote.) But given the vitality of his campaign, and the widespread appetite for a fresh start, he might pull in many more transfers from across the spectrum.

    The opposite happened. He managed to get about 1,100 first preferences, which was a very respectable tally. But he got feck all transfers, not even from Mannix which you would have suspected. This suggests to me that Dylan failed utterly to connect with voters beyond his own very narrow base. Which is kinda the whole point I’m trying to make here, I suppose.

    @ Fenster – I’m a slightly uncomfortable publishing that comment since it may or may not be true. But feck it, it’s ultimately complimentary to the guy so I’ll leave it there. If it’s not true someone can come on and set the record straight.

  9. Andrew Says:

    Check out how transfers work. They can count for shockingly little or, in some cases, absolutely nothing.

  10. Eoin Says:

    I studied political science in university, admittedly about ten years ago now, but I think I have a reasonably good idea how PR works.

    If the candidate you gave your first preference vote to is eliminated, then your vote moves into the column of the person you gave your second preference to. Seven candidates, who polled a combined total of about 2,500 first preference votes, were eliminated before Haskins. But he only picked up a couple of hundred transfers.

    Or have I got this arseways?

  11. Andrew Says:

    Nah, you’re right, except for the fact that percentages of the total vote come into play in order to correspond with the surplus. Which means that what ends up being a couple of hundred transfers is quite possibly a lot more.

    At least that’s how I understand it.I got most of my understanding of it here: http://www.rte.ie/news/election2011/mechanicsprstv.html ,so I can’t claim any expertise whatsoever. I wasn’t trying to be confrontational on that point, I only looked into the whole thing properly recently and was slightly surprised by it. I also knew nothing of the details of the transfers in that constituency. I’m more talking about the impression I got from people I know who voted there too. Eoghan Murphy and Kevin Humhreys did very well on first preferences but I find it hard to believe that all those people really wanted them in more than Creighton or Quinn. There are people who vote very tactically/cynically in order to make sure that their preferred party (or lesser of two evils) gets as many seats as possible.

  12. Eoin Says:

    But you’re talking about surplus votes. I’m talking about transfers from eliminated candidates, which transfer across 100%. The candidates eliminated before Haskins included Mannix (arts background), Sinn Fein (leftist) and other independents – which I would have thought would lean heavily towards Haskins, but didn’t.

    I never fully understood how surplus votes were redistributed though so that link really interesting in that respect.

    Re: your confrontational attitude – you’d better sort your attitude fast Andrew, or you’re cruising for a bruising. From me. Fair warning.

  13. Andrew Says:

    Ah right, that’s fair enough. Mind you, anyone I know who was canvassing or happily stating that they’d vote for Mannix just thought of Dylan as a little bollix of an upstart who only counted as a spoilt vote. Beyond party allegiances I’m not sure there’s always that much consideration put into preferences. Hell, I gave that John Keigher dude my eighth preference for his solid gold campaign literature:
    http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2011/02/johnkeighermanifesto.pdf

    Will St. Leger and the like could only dream of producing that.

  14. Eoin Says:

    Mannix didn’t exactly cover himself in glory at that NCFA event. When Paul Gogarty is the voice of reason, you know you’re in trouble!

    Wow, John Keigher literature is like a fat guy in a Christmas jumper. He’s either at the very, very, very cutting edge… or he actually lives under a rock. One or the other.

  15. Duckula Says:

    Even in defeat hes overhyped

  16. Hannibal the Manimal Says:

    Nice work on the Seona Dancing ref. Jedward, Home Alone, Bros but you had to be different.

  17. Alex Says:

    To be honest I think Haskins needs to finish college, go into the world, get some life and work experience and return to politics in his mid 30s. People who enter political life very early on an have no real experience of the outside world and this is hugely detrimental. I’m totally against anyone going into politics at 23 and making a career of it.

  18. lessfacebookmoreribbons Says:

    5th reason the campaign faltered: Not enough rosettes.
    Mannix had pink and gold rosettes on the edge of his posters that looked well professsional and classy.

  19. darragh Says:

    In a way, it might spare the guy that he didn’t get elected. This election was all about the economy, and it was his weakest suit. Also, I think the Dáil and its grimly bureaucratic workings would have eroded a can-do spirit that would (and will) ultimately achieve more in the grass roots arts and culture scene he is involved in.

    Also at the commenter who shited on about Daddy’s money – I’d rarely say this, but you must be some sort of mouthbreather.

    Very insightful post Eoin.

  20. Susan Dunphy Says:

    “His policy platform was a tad naive, sure, but no more so than you would expect from someone of his tender years”

    “Considering Haskins’ age and inexperience, it was obvious he stood no real chance of taking a seat”

    Fuck off, you old ageist prick. What does his age have to do with anything?

  21. Eoin Says:

    Susan, I’ll sidestep the fact that you referred to me as an “old ageist” prick because that’s just… an open goal.

    But I will answer the charge of of my being ageist. You know, maybe am. Unlike sexism, racism or homophobia though, which are always wrong, there are many instances in which ageism is entirely justifiable.

    You wouldn’t put a teenager in charge of a murder investigation. You ask a 95-year-old to pilot a transatlantic flight.

    If someone believe a 23-year-old couldn’t possibly have the life experience necessary for the responsibilities of elected office, I do think that’s a legitimate point of view.

  22. Tom Says:

    Like the article. I think EoinB makes a good point about the registration. I finally bothered to move my vote up from Mayo and gave my first preference to Haskins. I’d never heard of him before this campaign and have to admit that the top button issue did trouble me too, but I was impressed by his campaign and liked what he had to say, so I gave him the nod.

  23. Jen Says:

    WTF is Seona Dancing?

  24. Eoin Says:

    http://tinyurl.com/4gvevrp

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