Canvassing- there’s a time and a place.

As a preparation for this post, I asked on Twitter yesterday if anyone had endured “church-gate” canvassing from any of the political parties this weekend; the only answer I received (from a Unionist) was along the lines of a “They wouldn’t dare”. I knew what he was getting at.

That’s not to say politicking doesn’t take place inside, or round the vicinity of their version of “God’s House”, but any Unionist politician (or ambitious apparatchik) who knows what’s good for him will be making sure he is at least seen publicly breaking bread first before the whispered: “I know, DV*, I can rely on your Number 1 Thursday week”

I don’t know if there were any politicians from the other side of the fence waiting impatiently to mug unsuspecting worshippers yesterday as they left morning mass, but as these posts from politics.ie (here and here) show, it still seems a regular enough practise in the Republic. The second post there in particular touches on what is, in my opinion, the inherent tackiness of this practise and it’s this disrespect for the religious beliefs and practises of another group of believers which has caused ructions last week in Cardiff:

A ROW over whether politicians should canvass support outside Cardiff mosques escalated last night – as Plaid Cymru were accused of “justifying violence and intimidation”.

Last week Labour politicians clashed with men outside the Jalalia Mosque following Friday prayers.

Scuffles broke out as the group demanded the canvassers left. The same men are understood to be behind radical material distributed last year warning all Muslims not to take part in elections.

The incident led Labour Assembly candidate Mark Drakeford to insist that no street in Cardiff should become a “no-go zone” for political parties.

But Plaid Cymru last night accused Labour of “discriminating” against Muslims and said they contributed to the problem by canvassing near mosques during prayer time.

That charge of “discrimination” arises from the fact that Labour apparently  don’t canvass outside churches or chapels in the same manner.

This concluding sentiment from Cardiff Plaid leader Neil McEvoy is an admirable one which you would have hoped all political parties could wholeheartedly subscribe to:

 I am always available to meet with any group when invited, but don’t want to impose when people want to be alone with thoughts of God straight after prayer. I also do not canvass outside of schools.

Finally, a polite warning- anyone ever thinking of canvassing me outside my traditional place of weekend worship (aka “the pub”)… don’t; I guarantee you will get very short shrift indeed.

*DV as in “God Willing” not “David Vance”

  • Dewi

    It’s going something for the Western Mail and Labour to spin that as an anti Plaid story.

  • sdelaneys

    Outside church gates used to be a prime spot for SF and the SDLP to address a ready made audience via a microphone and the impatience of the second speaker was often obvious as the one who went first made sure the crowd were moving away before handing over to the latecomer. The only reason this practice died out was the changing lifestyle of people which left them less likely to wait in the first place, the fact that most people now go to mass in cars was another factor.
    A man started to speak outside mass in Cstleblaney one time, when he saw a good number of people coming out the doors. he was quickly told to stop as mass wasn’t over and the priest was complaining; this is a phenomenon known to catholics as leaving when communion starts. The speaker went around to the parochial house to apologise to the priersty after mass and did so by saying ,”I’m sorry father, I thought mass was over when I saw all the people coming out because where I live when you see anybody leaving that means mass is over.’ The priest then apologised to the shinner.

  • Big Boss

    Not to many in my area would canvass a mass, although the shinners did last year, which makes me wonder why a pro-choice party is allowed inside the church grounds.

    I remember John Hume canvassing mass a few years ago, but they stayed outside the church gates and got people as they were driving out.

    Usually though i just get a leaflet on my car, and depending who its from, it sometimes makes the inside.

  • “mugged” by canvassers?
    “endured” canvassers?
    Not exactly neutral language. But it seems logical to at least be present where there are large gatherings of people. Merely being SEEN at an act of worship is a form of canvas. Or at a GAA or Rugby match. The GAA does not allow “party politics”.
    Certainly I have no objection to anything outside the gates.

    I noticed our small village church yesterday had a small parade to a graveside. People with flags etc. In its own way that was a form of canvas but of course it happens every Easter Sunday and not just at Election time.
    What exactly is the alternative?
    Dont canvas people at Church……but insist they all go to Carphone Warehouse where they will buy a cell phone and the be canvassed by being “tweeted”.
    It seems a waste of resource to actually canvas outside a church. A leaflet drop in the car park makes more sense. And the people irritated by that are likely to be the same folks who would be irritated by a leaflet from a car valet business or the local pizza takeaway.
    A Time and a Place????
    Time …7pm last Monday night.
    Place…..Armagh Theatre.
    Hustings organised by Platform For Change.
    Attended by…two people (self and Mrs FitzjamesHorse) and politicians from UUP, DUP, SF, SDLP and Alliance.
    Thats right….5 politicians and 2 people (apologies to anyone I missed).
    Now maybe that was the time and place. But nobody cared. So I dont expect many care about the church gate thing.

  • sdelaneys

    The after mass speeches I was referring to all took place on public property outside church grounds.

  • separatesix

    I see Dawn Purvis has been canvassing on sundays, perhaps she feels all her potential voters are probably atheists.

  • StewartFinn

    I am Dawn Purvis’ campaign manager, we have not been canvassing on Sundays – not that I personally have any problem with Sunday campaigning but we don’t run a canvass on a Sunday.

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, if had of know you were there might have headed over lol

    The idea of canvasing at a Church by a Unionist party would probably result in mass resignations of party members never mind alienating voters!

  • PaulT

    I read this blog yesterday immediately after reading the one concerning the Catholic schools in Ireland, which had brought to mind Robinsons line on Catholic education in NI.

    Should I fashion a tinfoil hat for myself because I can make a connection between secular politics lambasting the Catholic Church on certain topics, YET, feeling the need to get their candidates standing at the Chapel door to canvass Massgoers.

    The FJH Clan had the experience of been outnumbered by politicans at a none chapel door event, is there a jealous thread in politics that once a week a priest can fill the pews for several Masses yet politicans can’t fill a phone box 4 weeks before an election.

    I could be wrong, but, I think SF is the party furtherest from the Catholic Church, yet, makes no rumpus about the Church, however, like the Church it can draw upon a huge number of unpaid volunteers.

    The parties who attack the Church can’t even get people to put their posters up for free.

    Yeap, methinks the sin of envy is widspread among politicans.