Tuesday 24 April 2018

#PromNight Ireland: Defining a Political Debate

A recent night of high political drama in Ireland played out as much on Twitter as it did anywhere else. For politicians, media organisations and brands, #promnight was a demonstration of how they can’t always control the terms of a debate.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock with poor 3G reception for the last few years, you’ve probably heard that Ireland is experiencing some severe fiscal difficulties. On top of the bursting of a property bubble, and the high unemployment that has come with it, the state has also been shouldered with the significant burden of bailing out its banking system.

The complexities of the ties between the state coffers and the banking sector could fill several books but until recently the largest issue occupying the political agenda was the “promissory note”, essentially a giant IOU issued by the state to enable Anglo Irish Bank, which had massive exposure to property deals, to borrow from the ECB.

A deal on the promissory note had been long rumoured but few were prepared for the drama that was to come after news of details of the deal started to emerge in the early afternoon of the 6th of February.

With news of the government’s plans coming out in the open, the Irish parliament was hastily convened in order to pass emergency legislation to facilitate the deal. Even quicker to mobilise were Ireland’s political bloggers, with Suzy Byrne and one of her followers nailing what would be the primary means of communicating on Twitter for the over 12 hours of high wire political theatre to follow.

The wit of #promnight led to more than a few wisecracks.

Whilst more traditional outfits remained rather sober about the whole affair.

However the sheer popularity of #promnight eventually held sway, with most realising it was the best way to get info out there, including the culmination of the whole affair.

On a night where big decisions were made in a hurry by those with political influence, those with influence online showed that they control the terms and language of online debate far better than traditional influencers could ever hope for.

Lee Daly is a Senior Account Executive with Edelman Digital in Ireland. You can follow him on Twitter @leedalyire. His own prom night was devoid of both witty quips and high drama.

Image credit: Joachim S. Müller.

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