Bogus Twitter accounts, plausible deniability, and the use of unqualified leads…

As Chris notes, no one in current Sinn Fein will cry any tears over the way the Irish media tripped over itself to gobble up the fake story of Sean Gallagher and the cheque that never was

Update: It seems that the @Martin4Prez2011 (official) & @McGuinness4Pres (bogus) were born on the same day. But, as noted by Stewart below (and missed by me), the official account begins to tweet *2 days after* the parody. Which is odd.

Update to the Update: The fake Twitter account was withdrawn during the course of this conversation, which is odder still..

UPdate to the Update to… It’s back again… which may or may not be odd…

Anyway, the original post continues…

Harry McGee rightly notes that there should be a massive health warning attached to anything emanating from Twitter or Facebook… But the incident tells us about more than the problems that come with the digital revolution, but also the problem with the way news is gathered and opinion formed within the mainstream media.

It’s the one defined by Guardian journalist Nick Davies as Flat Earth News…

Yet, whilst we knew within hours that the Twitter account was false and that Martin McGuinness himself was either speaking without appraising himself with the facts or deliberately spinning a falsehood to damage a political opponent… the press, way beyond RTE, continued to run opinion on Gallagher which presumed good provenance still attached to what turns out to have been little more than an unsubstantiated rumour…

The real investigation ought to have been focused on the false account and the dirty tricks involved… For one, both the ‘fake’ and the Sinn Fein official account where established on the same day (17th September) within a very short time of one another…

And for another, David Cochrane of Politics.ie shared with Twitterati last Monday night, that a senior member of Sinn Fein had told him (ie one to one) that they were ‘likely to roll him out tomorrow…’

There are questions to be asked (and unlikely to be answered) by Sinn Fein, but in fact the greater questions are those the Press themselves must ask themselves… In this new age of lightening fast communications, how well equipped are they to qualify digital leads?

Magee isolates the problem:

Twitter and other forms of social media have come in from the periphery to become part of the mainstream of political discourse. But those who evangelise on behalf of the brave new world of communication are not so quick to point out the shortcomings of the medium. For example, it raises questions of authenticity and credibility. Or in layman’s terms, the use of anonymity to deceive, to spread unfounded rumours and, sometimes, to lie.

Tweeters say that its “community” can quickly self-correct mistakes. But not quickly enough to prevent a rogue tweet going viral. If something big happens, everybody rushes to be the first there, to get their tweet in, or to retweet something that’s significant.

It may be true some digital evangelists are not exactly telling the whole truth about the new rules of their newly adopted world. In particular, that wise crowds require diversity to become a reliable mob. Even James Surowieki sounds a warning bell at the beginning of his seminal Wisdom of Crowds, Charles Mackay in a much earlier age:

Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

As noted here previously:

Sean Gallagher’s a big boy, he can look after himself, the real problem may be that we have conformist/confirmist press which is long on collective hysteria and short on independent judgement.

Last word to Gallagher’s spokesman, who makes the decidedly non Twitter point that:

“There is a serious issue down the line for broadcasters on how to handle tweets and other social media on a live programme. The same rules should apply as for other media. What happened on The Frontline was not acceptable as something was put out without any checking or attempting to authenticate material.

“There were Sinn Féin press officers present in RTÉ or else Sinn Féin could have been contacted by mobile phone. The tweet was accepted uncritically as from Sinn Féin.”

Unqualified leads have always been the curse of reliable journalism, digital or no digital. It’s not Twitter’s (or even Sinn Fein’s) fault if the press believe everything appealing they read on t’Internet.

To declare an interest, Mick’s agency, Slugger Consults is currently working in the area of Digital Strategy. If you want to get in touch please do so through that site.

If you are in Dublin next week, he’ll be touching on this and other issues in a short presentation to the Cleraun Media Forum in some pretty elevated company…

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  • The envelope moment came towards the end of the show after the last commercial break. By the time Vincent Browne came on, the first of his three commentators had already established that this was not an official announcement from a Sinn Fein twitter source but a source that looked as if it was an official SF source and was bogus. From memory she said she had done this by making two phone calls to her SF contacts.

    Presumably also Martin McGuinness had an entourage of media savvy Shinners off screen.

    The female commentator made the checks why didn’t RTE?

  • Having said the above it is also true to say that the editorial and my comment both gloriously miss the point.

    Why was an interested third party, presumed to be an official Sinn Fein site, allowed to influence a primetime National debate. Who was running the show RTE or SF?

  • I think its a longer established maxim that a Lie gets up dresses and is half way round the world before the Truth has its trousers on….I am much too lazy to look up the actual quotation.
    I am not good with Twitter but 140 characters is hardly a medium for a man of my verbose nature. More importantly it is not exactly a medium for serious reflection of any issue.
    Nowadays no so called serious news programme is complete without the annoying stream of opinions from Joe Bloggs in East London and Paddy McPaddy in West Belfast.
    Neither Jeremy Paxman or David Dimbleby give me the impression that they care very much for this nonsense.
    Academia does not value Wikipedia.
    Journalism should value sources.
    I have made this point ad nauseam on Slugger…….who is saying this and why is he saying it……..and oft been slapped down as “irrelevant”.
    Ironic therefore that the anonymity of Twitter has been Journalism and t’Internet so badly.
    Sources. Sources. Sources.
    Relax the guard and this is what happens.
    New Media is all of a sudden responsible for an injustice. Nobody in Sinn Féin will care. Nor will anyone in Labour for that matter.
    Yet the potential for injustice was there on Sunday……not just Monday.
    False accounts?
    Anonymous Posting?.
    Pseudonyms?

    How many of us here on Slugger are signed up to follow an entertaining parody on Twitter.
    The silence is the sound of me not gathering the first stone.
    But surely we now know that Twitter is for entertainment only.
    It should not be treated as a news source.

  • fjh, here’s the quote from a man who would have been a dab hand on Twitter:

    “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

    As Mick points out the failure to check sources has been around for a long time. The culling of experienced journalists as well as the speed of the new media have given newswire feeds and lobbyists a field day. Two years on my speculation has proved to be very close to the mark. The general public is being very ill-served by the MSM.

  • Mick Fealty

    FJH,

    As ever, you are partly spot on, and partly completely (erm) barking up the wrong tree.

    Twitter does have a use for news organisations. It’s just that it should not be allowed to drag a reputable news organisation into writing “me too” copy.

    Responsibility for ensuring that must be shared between journos and senior editorial staff.

  • “a reputable new organisation into”

    Mick, just a small point. I see you’ve edited your reply to fjh. Did you mean ‘news’ rather than ‘new’?

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Nev. Hope the correct answers your question.

  • Never let facts get in the way of a good story? Media has become shockingly lazy in the effort to entertain rather than report. Consequently, people are less trusting of the media when they can get tittle-tattle dressed as news just about anywhere. The Daily Mash /The Onion is more often closer to the facts than some MSM. A broad generalisation, perhaps.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed. This story proves the Media has enough bite to affect political outcomes. And of course the appeal of the story was understandable given how Gallagher attempted to keep his association with FF sub rosa.

    But, I’d hope there would be some serious reconsideration of the MSm’s relationship to digital and its ongoing capacity to not inadvertantly invest in flat earth news stories.

  • Having said the above it is also true to say that the editorial and my comment both gloriously miss the point.

    Why was an interested third party, presumed to be an official Sinn Fein site, allowed to influence a primetime National debate. Who was running the show RTE or SF?

    I’ll reply to my own comment. Just to make my point clear. This was a live debate going out to the nation. It was not a delayed transmission like Question Time, this was a live presidential debate with all to play for, which would help determine the next President of the Republic.

    What were the ground rules prior to the broadcast, were there any? You bet your life there were, and you can bet also there were plenty of people around, both RTE and political supporters, monitoring the minutes and seconds given to each candidate, monitoring the tone of the questions, advising them in the breaks etc.

    Yet despite all the ground rules aimed at ensuring RTE impartiality, parity of treatment, format of questions etc here we have an unchecked tweet given centre stage. What if another bogus tweet from a seemingly reliable but made up source, say “TG4electionfeed”, had said “Enda Kenny reported as disowning Gay Mitchell at dinner party ‘If I wouldn’t vote for him why would I expect anybody else to vote for him”‘” and that had been picked up by RTE, or more likely by the Sinn Fein observers present at the debate, and brought to the attention of the production team.

    No responsible broadcaster should have allowed unsubstantiated tweets to feature in a live presidential broadcast, but the veracity and immediacy of the tweet is irrelevant – forget the technology ( a telephone call can be just as crucial) the point is this:

    RTE allowed a supposed SF source ie an interested third party to determine RTE’s questioning of a rival candidate, in so doing acted as SF’s proxy (at the same time benefiting other candidates)

    Either RTE were incompetent or complicit, cock up or conspiracy, you take your choice.

  • “This story proves the Media has enough bite to affect political outcomes.”

    Remaining independent…

    • Providing high quality national and international news services that are accurate, impartial and objective

    • Ensuring the integrity of its services and that editorial decision-making is not subject to undue influence from any commercial, political, religious, social or cultural interest.RTE Public Service Statement 2010 [pdf file]

    Should or will there be an independent investigation into this RTE programme?

  • But once MMG shot Gallagher in the foot, Gallagher proceeded to shoot himself in the other foot. Instead of saying “..if i was given a brown envelope..” he should have simply said “That’s a damn lie and I will see you in court.”

  • Jimmy Sands

    Of course what Gallagher should have said is “You want to discuss fundraising Martin? This is how I did it. How did you?”

  • Gael Eoghain

    Mick,
    Your insinuation that Sinn Féin were somehow involved in creating @McGuinness4President Twitter account is simply wrong.
    Any observer of Social Media will know that account names are snapped up by supporters and usurpers, immediately someone’s name becomes associated with a particular initiative.
    The McGuinness campaign obviously had difficulty obtaining names similar to eachother for Twitter, Facebook. Web, and e-mail, such was the lateness of their declaration and the further delay in establishing a social media presence. Supporters and ‘Parody’ account holders had already created accounts bearing names which would have been much better suited to official campaign sites.
    This correspondent can confirm that Cathy Power, Sinn Féin Director of Publicity, denied any connection between the party and @McGuinness4President Twitter Account as early as Thu. 22 September 2011.
    On that day Sinn Féin issued information to its mailing list and via social media confirming the correct designations of its various official campaign social media sites.
    Such information was restated for the avoidance of confusion because of complaints made to a Sinn Féin TD about the content of tweets emanating from @McGuinness4President TWITTER account.
    It is ironic that responsibility for an account which gave Sinn Féin cause for concern, within hours of its creation in September, should now be attributed to the party.
    The suggested investigation of the ownership of this bogus account may reveal something which Sinn Féin’s opponents had not anticipated.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s a deniable outlier. Like the housewives league or the taxpayers alliance. If we are being realistic, it’s a great Machiavellian trick. And, if David is to be believed it seems to have been working in concert with the party mainframe. Whether by design or otherwise.

    The thrust of this story is caveat emptor, and aimed at the media rather than SF!

  • Alias

    What we need is an agency to impose standards on the press. This was a media out of all control, running biased opinion as current affairs and news rather than reporting the facts. Partisans were everywhere, and impartiality was not to be seen at all.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Whose standards?

  • socaire

    Did I miss something or did Gallagher not actually solicit funds personally for FF? Why shoot the messenger? Was a cheque from Hugh Morgan not given to FF? How was it delivered? – by post?

  • stewart1

    Twitter is certainly not perfect but i think a health warning should also be attached to some of those commenting about the issue surrounding the McGuinness twitter episode. They are either agenda driven or not very bright!

    The unofficial McGuinness Twitter account was set up on the 17th September and the unofficial Facebook page was actually set up on the 16th.

    The official McGuinness Twitter account was not up and running until the 19th September.

    Sinn Fein Ireland actually posted the following on twitter on the 17th September in response to the unofficial account

    “FYI – there is no official Twitter for Martin McGuinness’s presidential bid. Such an account will only exist after ratification.”

    I’m no journalist but a simple examination of timelines would have given the article writer the basic facts, that’s what i did.

    So the following paragraph in Fealty’s article….

    The real investigation ought to have been focused on the false account and the dirty tricks involved… For one, both the ‘fake’ and the Sinn Fein official account where established on the same day (17th September) within a very short time of one another…

    Is utter nonsense

  • Mick Fealty

    Stewart, the two accounts I looked up are:

    @Martin4Prez2011 Ireland

    Martin McGuinness is the Sinn Féin nominated candidate for the Irish Presidential election campaign 2011. This is the official campaign twitter account.

    McGuinness4Pres Dublin
    The People’s President.
    http://www.thepeoplespresident.ie/

    *Both* were *set up* on the 17th. Now maybe they are both bogus. I doubt it because the first one seems to want to put clear green water between itself and the ‘news breaker’.

    Maybe was run as an external ringer (by the beneficiaries of the Frontline kerfuffle, perhaps?), but I find it hard to untangle the actions of the rogue tweeter and the official statements of the candidate. Perhaps I am missing something?

  • stewart1

    *Both* were *set up* on the 17th. ?

    Where they? I presume you can back that up?

    The unofficial facebook page was set-up on 16th September & the unofficial Twitter account was set up on the 17th. That’s fairly easy to see and seem to have been set-up by the same person..

    @sinnfeinireland 17th sept

    FYI – there is no official Twitter for Martin McGuinness’s presidential bid. Such an account will only exist after ratification. #aras11

    @sinnfeinireland 19th sept

    The official facebook page (still under construction) for Martin McGuinness’s presidential campaign is located here. http://on.fb.me/oSdtEC

    @sinnfeinireland 19th sept

    The official Twitter feed for Martin McGuinness’s Presidential campaign is @martin4prez2011 #aras11

    @Martin4Prez2011 first tweet 19th sept

    Martin to attend Ploughing Championships in Athy tomorrow. Will be there at about 11am. See him out and about and at SF stand. #aras11

  • Mick Fealty

    First tweet is not the same as the set up date. In fact, the fact that the first tweet came two days later (ie, before anyone in the public domain could have known anything about the official account) may tell us a little more (without confirming anything of course) about the origins of the account than we knew before.

    Check it out for yourself on http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/

  • Munsterview

    joe : “…. he should have simply said “That’s a damn lie and I will see you in court.”

    Yes Joe he could have done just that……. if his hands were entirely clean in this area that is!

    Those in insider politics know how ‘a businessman’ like Sean Gallaher must operate to get noticed and be taken seriously by the party big wigs. ‘Businessmen’ or indeed, women on the way up through the National Exectuive and who are preparing the ground for a future Government Ministry must have the proven ability to bring in realistic sums to party coffers.

    During the Celtic Tiger era, ‘young tigers’ such as Gallaher would have to bring in € 100,000 plus to ‘buy’ their place on the National Exectuive. Anyone who thinks that this was the only € 5,000 donation ‘Brown Envelope’ that Sean had procured, solicited or whatever for Fianna Failed should not be too readily chided for that idea, innocence is an endearing quality and there is far too little of it around !

    Those in the know however will also know that this was far more likely to be inveterate rather than individual practice, Sean had to think on his feet and may have been thinking ….. ” just how much more do they know?” The fact that he did not deny outright that he had taken ‘A Brown Envelope’ but rather attempt to contextualize the circumstances of how he could have taken it if he did, for the aware, said all there was to say.

    As far as Gallaher was concerned the election did not come one day too soon, his carefully created media image was as devoid of gloss towards the end as his head was of hair and it was getting worse.

    The media is far from finished with Sean Gallaher and three to six months down the line people may be very grateful indeed for what resulted from that last TV debate.

  • Mick Fealty

    Before many, rather than ‘anyone’. There’s tiny bit of wriggle room there, but not a lot.

  • Alias

    “Whose standards?”

    They’re already there, Jimmy, but – as the Gallagher smear campaign shows – not imposed. See the Press Council’s guidelines and the Broadcasting Act 2009.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I absolutely do not wish to see state control of the press.

  • stewart1

    You said : “the fact that the first tweet came two days later (ie, before anyone in the public domain could have known anything about the official account) may tell us a little more (without confirming anything of course) about the origins of the account than we knew before.”

    A tweet on the Sinn Fein Twitter account on the 17th confirmed that their would be no official twitter account until ratification on the Sunday (18th), so everyone would have been fully aware that the other account was not real. Thus the official account was announced by Sinn Fein on the Monday(19th).

    @sinnfeinireland 17th sept : FYI – there is no official Twitter for Martin McGuinness’s presidential bid. Such an account will only exist after ratification. #aras11

    It’s not rocket science, even for unionist conspiracy theorists!

  • stewart1

    ‘there’ would be no official twitter account

  • MV,

    His hands didn’t need to be clean. He could just have grandstanded with a meaningless threat as politicians are wont to do.

  • Mick Fealty

    Look Stewart, this is pure obfuscation on your part.

    Who set up the bogus account? I don’t know (and unless we can prove conclusively who it was, then the ‘who’ is not going be to anywhere near as important as the ‘what’).

    All I know is it was set up on the same day the official account was set up. This is a matter of technological record. It doesn’t matter if you have a dozen party statements saying it did not exist, it actually did.

    You asked for evidence. I’ve provided it. Now you’re planning to ignore it?

  • Mark

    The who , what , where , when , how is not the important part in all this …..

    It was the look ….. the look on Gallagher’s face as he asked himself ” how much do they know ” . That’s the important part and that’s when the voters made their mind up about Sean Gallagher . The rest doesn’t matter ……

  • Munsterview

    JoeC : Sean ‘ Fresh, clean ‘New Daz’ ?

    Not likely, that was ‘old politics’ of Fianna Failed, while Sean was all about ‘new politics’ !

  • stewart1

    Calm down Mick fella!

    Both the bogus account and the official account existed, i’ve agreed with that from my first post above.

    I’m not sure what you are on about ‘dozen party statements saying it did not exist’….you’ve lost me on that one!

    You stated “before anyone in the public domain could have known anything about the official account”

    This is garbage as i’ve shown the Sinn Fein tweet from the 17th stating that there was no official twitter account yet, that is a matter of technological record.

    The actual set-up date is irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    Any clarification from Sinn Fein regarding the bogus account was given on the day it was set up with the SF tweet on the 17th.

    @sinnfeinireland 17th sept : FYI – there is no official Twitter for Martin McGuinness’s presidential bid. Such an account will only exist after ratification. #aras11

  • Mick Fealty

    MV,

    You are man playing, and drifting off topic!

    Stewart,

    Go back re-read your own post. In the meantime, one last recap. The official account is established (but not made public for two days).

    Twitter account

    Bogus Twitter

    The second is the bogus one, which was showing on my machine when our conversation started but now seems to have suddenly disappeared. Strange I’d say. Strange too that the imposter correctly guessed the format of the official account two days before it was ‘ratified’.

    Night all…

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d be happy for anyone to throw some independent light on the matter.

  • stewart1

    Mick, I’m glad you seem to have now accepted that there is a clear record on twitter showing that Sinn Fein distanced itself from the bogus account on the day it was set-up.

    And it’s also worth noting that the tweet of the 17th was retweeted by TD’S, MLA’a and others, so there’s no validity to your previous assertion about there being ambiguity regarding the origin of the bogus account.

  • Mick Fealty

    And the sudden disappearance of the bogus site in the duration of our conversation?

  • stewart1

    “The second is the bogus one, which was showing on my machine when our conversation started but now seems to have suddenly disappeared. Strange I’d say.”

    Conspiracy theories again lol, you need to get out more!

    The same format Mick? You mean it used the same picture which was all over Facebook from the Friday lol

  • Mick Fealty

    No, I mean using McGuinness as opposed to Martin, the numeral ‘4’ and ‘pres’ as opposed to ‘prez’. And now the sudden disappearance during our conversation.

    Pretty spooky guessing two days before the official account went public would you not say?

  • CommentOnStats

    “the Irish media tripped over itself to gobble up the fake story of Sean Gallagher and the cheque that never was…”

    Not just the Irish media, but also on Wikipedia etc. I do not think the specifics of one cheque from one business person could have holed this presidential bid below the waterline, though perhaps above the waterline. Even if Mr Gallagher had not received or forwarded one cent from Mr Morgan, but had taken part in fundraisng activites on behalf of Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s party of a similar nature, then demonstrating the falsity or otherwise of one specific allegation may not help him. If no such fundraising activities had taken place at all, then you would expect an emphatic and prompt denial. That may be a bit unfair, having in a way to deal with a reverse burden of proof, but it can happen in politics. In follow up interviews Mr Gallagher appeared to weave around the questions and failed, it seems, to knock the allegations on the head quickly.

    Mr Gallagher seems to be a fairly astute political thinker. He must have seen the damage done earlier in the campaign to “Quango Queen” Mary Davis after revelations about her income from state bodies was made public. Mr Gallagher should have seen it coming for this and other reasons.

  • stewart1

    It’s Halloween Mick, don’t be watching any more scary movies tonight. You are starting to sound like a Da Vinci Code groupie.

  • Lionel Hutz

    This has been a great read, especially the comments, lol.

    Stewart, speaking hypothetically…..

    If you were an interested party and wanted to be able to plant ideas into the ‘blogosphere’ that you would like to be able to disown, how would you do it?

  • Mick Fealty

    Lol… still the account has gone… and during our conversation… 🙂

  • Mark

    It had to have been McGuinness !!

  • Mick Fealty

    My money’s on Stewart actually! 🙂

  • Lionel Hutz

    another hypothetical qquestion.

    If you were an unaffiliated prankster, who had just sent a tweet that will go down in history as the tweetthat changed the course of an election would you delete the account?

    This is amazing. Sinn Fein are so clever. you gotta love em realy

  • Alias

    I’d like to know how RTE came to use content from the fake Twitter account just when it was most helpful to Marty’s ambush on Frontline, and why they thought that such dubious content should be used as part of its current affairs and news agenda.

    It isn’t credible to believe that RTE reseachers just happened upon a Twitter account at that exact time and threw caution to the wind. It is more likely that one of the Shinner team present in the studio pointed them in that direction.

    Also, the new info here that both accounts were created on the same day and both had strikingly similiar formats points only in one direction.

  • stewart1

    You’ve got me, it’s me Martin, Give it lilty!

    Seriously though, i presume if there are any techies out there, i’d love to find out more, if for no other reason than to save Mick the phone charge in ringing Dan Brown.

    It’s still gone Mick……Mick! it’s STILL gone!!! lol

  • Mick Fealty

    My work here is done Stewart… Oiche mhaith…

  • stewart1

    My work here is done Stewart… Oiche mhaith…

    Night Mick, don’t have nightmares 🙂

  • Lionel Hutz

    lol, it’ll be interesting to see the uptake on this. It’s not proof but it is slightly freaky.

    Mick, what %age is it of MLAs who regularly read Slugger? I can remember a survey was done one time….

  • Mick Fealty

    In 08, it was 96%.

  • Lionel Hutz

    interesting…..

  • Mick Fealty

    Whoops, it’s back again… curiouser and curiouser…

  • Munsterview

    Mick : ‘man playing’ ?

    Would you ever lighten up and do not be such a precious old fusspot ? Gallahers Fianna Failed past is as relevant here in any comments made about him, as my Sinn Fein past is in my comments!

  • Mick Fealty

    Just play by the rules MV. I really am off to bed now…

  • Lionel Hutz

    well for real twitter users out there…… do individual accounts get shut down from time to time?

  • John Ó Néill

    As far as I can recall, the @Martin4Pres account was set-up in between the announcement that McGuinness was to run and the ratification by the Ard Comhairle. There was a bit of traffic on twitter from SF warning people off the account as it was not an official one. The clunky look of the @Martin4Prez2011 account (the Prez bit) was so that people searching for it wouldn’t automatically pick up the unofficial tweets. If the account was set up by someone actually connected to SF I’m guessing they would have been told to take it down or let the campaign team use it. At 10 am this morning the tweets on the unofficial account are unavailable before 25th October.

    But this is entirely missing the point. Gallagher’s share dropped dramatically in only a couple of days as his carefully constructed campaign image fell apart. It wasn’t one tweet that did it – Gallagher (and/or his campaign team) had retro-fitted his CV to a well-crafted vision of what voters might endorse. This also meant glossing over his involvement in the type of politics that was publicly associated with the levels of access and influence bankers/builders had to government when FF were in power. That was beginning to unravel before the Frontline programme as the papers were running various angles which challenged that campaign CV. Unfortunately for Gallagher he immediately slipped into the exact argot that people associated with that sort of ‘politics’ (equally to the chagrin of some in FF who are trying to move the parties image on from that). One of the most heavily re-tweeted comments over the last couple of days of the election was by food critic Paolo Tullio: “I’m puzzled. Why would a thrusting, dynamic, job-creating entrepreneur want to sit in the aras for 7 years? Unless he’s gone broke.” Tullio’s tweet pretty much summarised the sentiments of the chattering classes. RTE seemed to be rushing to nail Gallagher to try and beat someone else to the bounce (more likely other media operators such as Vincent Browne than any of the political parties). But the damaging blows to the Gallagher campaign really came from the print media before the last weekend of the campaign who gave the overall impression that there were unanswered questions about him that he then either didn’t have time to address or wasn’t able to deal with. Ultimately, voters plumped for Michael D over Gallagher was probably down the extent to which Gallagher was an unknown quantity.

    The lesson for selecting Presidential candidates? Either have a past that was fully lived in the public eye, or, get everything out in advance and give yourself time to deal with questions.