Electoral personation and intimidation


I used not understand the idea of electoral intimidation. Electoral personation – that I’ve   understood for some time. Bernadette McAliskey explained  to me the way it worked, at least as it was explained to her and others by Lord Fitt, at the time known as plain Gerry Fitt. The clever use of personation at the polls was to select a solid middle-of-the-road nationalist couple of advanced years. These, you could bet, would vote for a middle-of-the road nationalist candidate. So what you did was, you got two  of your people to the polls early, had them claim to be the aforementioned couple, and cast their votes for them. Later in the day, the elderly couple would turn up and be turned away – their vote was gone. They’d kick up stink and everyone would conclude it must have been some damned unionist personators at work again – or maybe even republicans. Net result: two votes in the bag and political opponents saddled with the blame.

As to electoral intimidation, I know how it works backways, thanks to one Professor John P McCarthy, I used to be baffled. How could you intimidate someone into voting one way or another? In the secrecy of the ballot-booth, they could vote as they chose and not let on. But Professor McCarthy explained when writing in The Irish Times recently.  Twenty-five constituencies in the 1918 election, he said,  returned Sinn Féin candidates unopposed, something that was “was in no small part the consequence of intimidation”.  So now I hope that’s clear.

But hold. In today’s Irish Times, a letter writer has pulled the good Professor up short. This letter-writer points out that the prof  offered no evidence of any kind for his contention that intimidation happened. In fact, today’s letter-writer says, “No party or candidate challenged Sinn Féin’s victories in the 73 constituencies it won, or its conduct in the other constituencies it contested.” He adds that, in the 1910 general election, two winning Redmondite candidates were disqualified on grounds of intimidation and fraud by their agents or supporters in East Cork, East Kerry and Louth.

Loud tinkle-crash! That was the sound of a  man in a glass house throwing stones.

                                    • After an interview once with Bernadette McAliskey, she told me who’d explained the way personation worked to her: Gerry Fitt, later to morph into Lord Fitt. You’d locate an elderly couple who were pretty well certain to vote for you. Before they got to the voting centre, you’d have two people in before them, claiming to be the couple. They’d get their ballot slips and vote for your party. Later in the day when the

6 Responses to Electoral personation and intimidation

  1. pretzellogic October 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    I think it may have been your computer crashing or possibly mine. There is a big space on your blog page which may have once been a window.

  2. michael c October 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    People often got confused about the correct terms used to describe electoral malpractice.I remember well over 30 years ago when I reached voting age,a neighbouring youth used to arrive at our house on election day.The purpose of his visit was to enquire if my brother and I would go with him to do a spot of “GERRYMANDERING”. ( I think he meant “personation” and of course we told him in no uncertain terms that we certainly would not be involved in such outrageous behaviour! )

  3. Perkin Warbeck October 2, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Perusing epistle-packing Professor McCarthy in yesterday’s TUT extolling – of all things ! – the Redmondite party of yore, one was transported back many nautical years ago to the southernmost inhabited part of the island of Ireland, Cape Clear off the coast of Reb-el Cork.

    Which, at that time at least, was not to be confused with Cape Fear, not least on account of the fact that the lingua franca of the leprechaun was still primarily to be heard on the lips of the locals. English language enthusiasts, aka, t’stickies had not got around to taking their tally sticks to the island, yet at any rate.

    Also at that time Cape Clear/Oilean Cleire was renowned for its seals, basking sharks, dolphins, salt air plants like seapink and honeysuckle and maritime birds such as cormorants and stormy petrels. Not to mention elastic licensing laws.

    Midshipman Easy himself, P. Warbeck was crewing at that time on the good yacht ‘The Iron Long’ out of Crosser (aka Crosshaven, buoy) . On this particular summer’s evening, having wearied of neap tides, jiffy rigging, poop decks and other nautical botherations, Cap’n Cash Register, whose day job was performing the role of one of the Merchant Princes of Leeside, decided to make landfall in Cape Clear for the night.

    It wasn’t long before we jolly tars had ensconsed our inner land lubbers inside the one hostlery on the island, each with his own personal flotation device in hand (a creamy black pint of Murphy’s, boy), content that we were adding to our collective ballast weight, and were soon going good-o at a great rate of knots into the theme song of the evening:

    ‘At McCarthy’s Party everyone was hearty
    Someone hit Moloney on the Nose
    With the handle of a broom McCarthy swept the room’.

    Precisely the same sensation Perkie felt on reading the housekeeping letter of tidy Professor Emeritus John P. McCarthy of the History Department, Fordham University, New York, in the letter bin of The Unionist Times. It was as if a great big Trans-Atlantic academic broom had swept all the carpet fluff of insular and insolent Fenianism away.

    And then: ‘A lady then did try, for to pacify
    My, but she was a grand awl’ cratur
    Yelling like a bull, she was beautiful
    Mrs. Peter’s couldn’t imitate her’

    Who she? Why, none other than the Grand Dame of Dali(sic) Eireann sheself, none other than the Yawnaiste Joanie Burton, MP, surrealistic harbinger of a new Dawn in Free Southern Stateen Politics. And whose party shares the same first vermillion syllable as the Redmondites.

    Asked today to comment upon the skullduggery surrounding the appointment or not to the board of IMMA, she replied with a chilling piece of chopstick logic by referring to a newly dug skull in a bog in the plains of Royal Meath.

    No wonder poor flummoxed Perkie was thinking more now in terms of Cape Fear rather than Cape Clear.

    As the Gregory Peck character remarked in that fillum noir: ‘My dog couldn’t bite through a doughnut but she’s a good barker’.

    Rather though than finish on this scary Mary note Perkie prefers to end on the same upbeat note of most modern Madames on Liffeyside:

    ‘She opened up her mouth, North, East, West South, for all the world to see
    She couldn’t get it shut, so McCarthy put his foot……..
    Down at McCarthy’s Party’.

    Lights out time now, folks, Yawns are SO contagious.

  4. Joe McVeigh October 3, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    McCarthy is a Bruton type Brit lover. I debated with him one time on US TV during the 1981 Hungerstrike when he denounced Bobby Sands and the hungerstrikers. This man has no credibility as a historian or commentator on Irish political affairs. he is ideologically opposed to republicanism in all its forms. He has been a strong supporter of British governments over the years and should be getting an MBE some of the days.

  5. neill October 3, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    So if he doesnt like republicans he is a brit lover nice.

  6. Larry Murphy October 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    MBE.?? Isn’t that what they give the toilet cleaner at King’s Cross Station, if he does a good job,,??