The above cloud is based on the analysis of tweets published between 20 and 27 January. Each tweet contains the popular tag #ge11 (General Election 2011). In total, 15,561 tweets were analysed – the larger the word in the cloud, the more frequently it appeared.

Thursday 20 January marked the first significant spike in conversation about the 2011 general election, with over 2,000 tweets published in 24 hours. As Brian Cowen announced 11 March as the date the country would go to the polls, tweets from journalists, broadcasters, politicians and the general public flooded Twitter feeds across Ireland and the globe.

Other than Catwoman (it was also the day the new Batman film, Dark Knight Rises, confirmed Anne Hathaway as Catwoman), nine of the top 10 trends on Twitter in Ireland on that day were related to GE11. Popular words such as finance bill, Green Party and Conor Lenihan (following his heated exchange with Vincent Browne on TV3) dominated Twitter coverage in Ireland. It was also the day that Enda Kenny and Fine Gael launched their latest video for the FG website, in which he announced "a serious plan and a serious team", and this was reflected in the online conversations.

However, in terms of volume, the political Twitter activity on Thursday almost doubled on Sunday, when the Greens announced they were withdrawing from government. From the moment their press conference was announced, rumour and speculation spread across Twitter; in total, over 3,800 GE11 tweets were published that day.

Some of the key words are not surprising. The word Cowen appears most frequently, with 1,855 mentions. His decision to step down as leader of Fianna Fáil was the biggest talking point on Twitter during the seven-day period analysed. Other politicians who featured prominently include Enda Kenny (552 mentions), Gerry Adams (373), John Gormley (342), Eamon Gilmore (246), and Bertie Ahern (242), whose comments on Thursday led to a flurry of tweets.

The finance bill (1,043 mentions) was the most popular political topic being talked about in relation to the general election. This was followed closely by the challenge for the leadership of Fianna Fáil, symbolised by the popular tag #ffheave in the cloud (936 mentions). By Thursday, the leaders' debate (365 mentions) was quickly emerging as the next big topic among those discussing GE11 on Twitter.

Finally, the most amusing (or depressing) aspect of the Twitter conversations came from Joe Lynam, a BBC journalist who wrote: "The fact the government now resembles the armless and legless knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail will hardly endear it any further to potential global investors." This comment was retweeted by over 100 people, and as a result we can see the words armless and legless (191 mentions) Holy Grail (216 ) and Monty Python (191) in the cloud.

Stephen O'Leary is a media analyst at O'Leary Analytics, a social media monitoring and analysis company


1,200 tweets about Joan

Before Monday evening, Joan Burton was a popular but not prolific presence in the Irish political twittersphere. On average, the Labour finance spokeswoman was mentioned eight times a day in the first 23 days of the month. However, on Monday, her performance on TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne led to a massive peak, with over 1,200 tweets mentioning Burton published in less than 24 hours.

The appearance, in which Burton repeatedly interrupted fellow guest, Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, met with a very negative reaction on Twitter – summed up in this tweet from David Fitzsimons: "Amazing, in just 15 minutes @joanburtontd has absolutely rid the Labour Party of any chance of my vote"

Tweets of the week

@joanburtontd trying to do an @kanyewest impression on #vinb was cringe worthy. Great TV though!

James Foley compares TV3 perform­ance to Kanye West MTV awards outburst

The fact the #Irish govt now resembles the armless/legless knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail film will hardly endear it to Markets

Tweet by BBC journalist Joe Lynam which was retweeted over 100 times

Cowen resigns as FF leader but stays as Taoiseach. Says it all. Not good enough to lead FF but good enough to lead the rest of the country!!

Billy MacInnes

Bertie Ahern heckled by Joan Collins. Sadly, it wasnt THAT Joan Collins

Lorna Peel

Lack of flags and old icons behind Micheál Martin as he makes first speech is notable

Tonyofla (@tonyofla)

Enda Kenny wants a five way not a three way.. What a greedy man!!!!

Erin McGreehan