*Photograph: Eamon Ward
Sitting councillors in the Ennis Municipal District have agreed not to put up posters ahead of May’s local elections.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Paul Murphy put forward the proposal asking elected representatives to sign up to a voluntary charter and abstain from using posters in the upcoming campaign. “This has been going in my head for a long time. I was approached by Clarecastle Tidy Towns in recent months about it. We can’t introduce bylaws to do this, it is a voluntary decision. We have also had representations from Ennis Tidy Towns in the last few weeks. At the end of the day they are a scourge, they are a health and safety hazard, they are a distraction for drivers. At a time when we are encouraging people to support the environment, we can do this”.
Fianna Fáil’s Tom McNamara seconded the motion, “Putting up posters on polls is awful. We’re complaining about waste and the environment, these are very unsightly. Tidy Towns commitees want to see their areas tidy and we should help with that. Anybody in the Ennis Municipal District declaring for the election should be sent a letter outlining our decision”.
Cllr Pat Daly wanted the District to follow the example of their West Clare counterparts. “West Clare has done it, there’s no harm for Ennis. We see each other enough, we don’t need to see each other on the poles”. The Fianna Fáil representative requested that any councillor that signs up to the charter and subsequently breaks it “be exposed by local journalists”.
“We’ve to be conscious of the environment, it’s fine the posters it’s the aftermath is the problem. In a few elections, posters have gone missing and we are liable if the posters reappear which can happen,” Independent councillor Ann Norton commented. “For sitting councillors we’re known and out in the public domain, I would be conscious there will be a number of people running in the local elections that might not have had the opportunity of running before. When I first ran five years ago I had ten posters and it worked out very well for me. We have to look at the bigger picture,” she said.
A member of the Ennis Tidy Towns committee, Cllr Mary Howard admitted she was present at their meeting when it was decided to make representations. “We’re cognisant of new candidates coming on board that they wouldn’t have the profile. I spoke of a designated area where everyone has one poster. I’m a little bit worried about new candidates who have announced their candidacy early and gone to the expense of printing posters when they haven’t the profile. What happens if someone who signs up to the charter and breaks it. I’m a small bit worried about the timing,” the Fine Gael councillor stated.
Having stood in eight elections, Cllr James Breen was happy to add his support to the proposal. “In the last election the environmental section were so kind to tell me I had put my posters up too early and would be fined for every poster, it took me two days to put them up and another two days to take them down,” the Kilnamona councillor recalled.
“Recognising that democracy needs fair play, designated areas could be done,” Cllr Johnny Flynn suggested. “Ennis went from being Ireland’s cleanest town to the twenty second, we’re very close to an international award and I would hate us to miss out on it for the proliferation of badly located posters. Very progressive move but we have to allow for new candidates to put up their posters”.
Regarding possible consequences for breaking the charter, Cllr Murphy confirmed, “There will be no penalties for anyone that breaks it because it is a voluntary charter. I was asked to bring it to the table and I have done it”.
Of the seven councillors present, all were in agreement with the voluntary charter. Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy was absent for this motion having already excused herself from the meeting.