From the upheaval roiling the Arab world to an admittedly less dramatic but growing role in democratic power shifts, social media is a political power player. Ireland managed to channel its considerable political tensions peacefully into the recently concluded general election, reported on, commented on, critiqued on Twitter under the hashtag #GE11 (standing for "General Election 2011").
The elections swept the Fianna Fail party out of power (current Taoiseach--Prime Minister-- Brian Cowen chose not to run for reelection), paving the way for rising Fine Gael party leader Enda Kenny to take over the top post.
Search #GE11 on Twitter to find a steady stream of election reactions: thoughtful, inflammatory, partisan, hopeful, snarky and satirical. Here are just a few seconds worth of #GE11 tweets:
@owensdamien: Good day for Sinn Fein. Quite a few people will be rolling over in their unmarked graves #GE11
@Leo_Traynor: It'll be fun watching all the Labour supporters furiously deleting their anti FG tweets & blog posts over the next 72hrs...#ge11 (-:
@obeoin: Very bad rugby performance #6nations and seemingly endless count in #wk #ge11 is not doing my blood pressure any good.
@HybridVigour: When do all the contestants come back on stage for the heartwarming medley? #ge11
@janeruffino: BREAKING: Berlusconi sends Enda a message asking how he likes his Bunga bunga. #ge11
@anniewestdotcom: This is like day 2 of Lisdoonvarna. Everyone knackered, smelly and sick from the burgers. And still another day to go. #ge11
@louisemcsharry: Very disappointed to see that Ivana has been excluded. Great woman, great candidate. #ge11 (there are lots of tweets, mostly in disappointment, about the defeat of Labour's Ivana Basik)
@siobhanbrett: Maybe people like it when #enda refers to 'this little country', or 'Paddy', the populace, as though he were an elderly neighbour. I don't. #GE11
@Con_Morty: #Enda sounds like a man with a mission. He may well amaze us all and be a good Taoiseach. C'mon Ireland! #ge11
@colmtobin: BREAKING: Enda Kenny calls for 36 hours of "light flirting" before they sit down to do a deal with the Labour Party. #ge11
@barrypeak: If i ever work in politics i promise to never lift anyone on my shoulders when they're elected. Dignity people. Dignity! #ge11 (LOTS of twitter commentary of the custom of hoisting winning candidates on the shoulders of supporters)
No surprise that there are fake Enda Kennys tweeting away, including:
@notEndaKenny: Some people wear Superman pyjamas. Superman wears #endapyjamas.... FACT #ge11
@TaoiseachEnda: I've spent the day frantically looking for events in Leitrim to attend this evening. There's not even a cattle mart going on. #ge11 #rtedeb
The ersatz @TaoiseachEnda has a YouTube page, with this video viewed almost 160,000 times:
In following election developments, Irish Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan kept his eye on the #GE11 Twitter deluge, noting "At one stage I took a break for a coffee and when I came back there were 5,963 new tweets."