'It's neat, it's organised chaos': Meet Alan Kinsella, the Dublin man with a 50,000-strong collection of election leaflets and posters
MOST twelve-year-olds in the early eighties collected stamps, badges or stickers. But for Alan Kinsella it was election leaflets and posters that piqued his interest.
Now, almost 40 years later, the Dublin man can proudly claim to have amassed a 50,000-strong collection of election leaflets, hundreds of and badges.
"I was 12 and went to the polling station with my parents in 1982," Alan told Independent.ie.
"There would have been people canvassing outside the polling stations back then. Barry Desmond was one of the local TDs. He signed his leaflet, 'To Alan, best of luck, Barry'. I kept it and that's where it started.
"My aunties, granddad and classmates in school brought me more leaflets. I would just keep stuff and pile it up."
Three general elections within 18 months and two referenda in the couple of years afterwards meant Alan's collection grew quickly.
"I would write to the parties looking for material and a wider circle of people began to keep stuff for me," he said.
"For years, it was almost embarrassing to say, 'you know that stuff coming in your door, you wouldn't keep it for me?'."
Now, the dad-of-two and IT professional lives in Rathfarnham, runs the Irish Election Literature blog and regularly hosts exhibitions of his material at party conventions and political events.
"I could only estimate I have maybe 40 or 50,000 leaflets and a couple hundred posters.
"Then there are badges, stickers, the unusual things as well, loads of different things.
"Most of it is in the attic, but I have an office where I keep it as well. Otherwise it could literally take over the house. It's neat, it's organised chaos.
"No, the 12-year-old in me never thought I would have a collection this massive," he laughed, adding that he still wouldn't be confident enough to go on 'Mastermind'.
"It's for a far wider audience than just politicians or politics fans. The leaflets and posters focus on a lot of social issues like divorce and abortion, you are able to tell the story of a country from them."
Vintage Fianna Fáil election posters featuring Eamon De Valera ("We had to frame it to protect it... it's amazing it has survived," Alan said) and three-tone election posters featuring former Taoisigh Garrett Fitzgerald ('Put the right man back!'), Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughey are among his most-prized items.
"My collection is unusual in that I'd have a bit of everything," Alan explained, "a lot of people might only collect from a locality.
"I have a friend who would collect everything to do with Roscommon, or friends who would collect only one party's material.
"I'd take everything, and not just election stuff, I would collect from protests. I have it all catalogued, it's mostly by area."
With just weeks to go until the local government elections and the referendum on the regulation of divorce, Alan has seen the visitors to his website soar.
"There is a huge amount of people looking at who's who, trying to find out more about particular people. There is also the nostalgia of Bertie, Garrett, Jack Lynch, and then there's the entertainment value.
"There is an assumption that social media is enough for a political campaign nowadays, but not everyone is going to be on Facebook, not everyone is on Twitter.
"Social media helps, but you have to stand out from the crowd and make an impact too."
Although, with four decades of leaflets and posters to flick through, Alan notes that a lot of the political literature now is "generic".
"Candidates used to share a lot more personal details before. Everything is a lot more generic now. For the local elections this year, there is a huge number of first-time candidates and it's clear they just have to fill out templates.
"Although I will say, I've yet to see someone this year running as an 'Independant'... the spell-checkers must be getting better!"
And he also notes the issues the electorate are concerned about have rarely changed over the years.
"I have leaflets from the early seventies detailing the housing crisis, and we're in another one now," Alan said.
"It's the same issues that crop up, health, housing. Taxes were a huge thing in the eighties, but you don't see as much about taxes on leaflets now.
"A big thing in the eighties were the fake shopping lists done up for an election leaflet, how much a pint of milk has gone up since the last crowd."
With hundreds of leaflets coming through the letter box from supporters and even more emails in his inbox, Alan will be kept busy for the coming weeks.
"It's just a hobby, I give it a few hours every now and then. For a few weeks, I mightn't do anything. I might just tweak the site on my phone. But at the moment it is busy.
"Another common enough reason I am contacted is that people are looking for material themselves. Maybe their mother or father passed away and had been involved in politics and they mightn't have kept anything from their elections.
"In any politician's or candidate's life, the election, the whole campaign, the whole cycle, if you talk to anyone at the moment who's running or involved, it's a big, long process and you're literally giving every minute of your day to it. It's a massive part of people's lives.
"So the posters, leaflets and stuff, they remind people of that."