*Photograph: John Mangan
SITES have been identified in Ennis which may serve as a designated area for election posters.
Poll-topper in the Ennis Municipal District for the 2019 local elections, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) is leading the campaign to have designated sites for election posters. She said she has received “huge feedback” from the public in favour of such a move.
Paddy Tiernan, senior executive engineer in the Ennis MD outlined that they have prepared a document on foot of Cllr Howard’s proposal. “We have looked at all roads throughout Ennis, we have identified some sites which are green areas under Clare County Council’s ownership where a process could be consolidated in certain areas”.
He advised, “We wouldn’t feel temporary structure a good idea, the size would be big and wind-loading is an issue so the amount of concrete that would have to go in to support it would be colossal”.
When putting forward the idea of a designated area, Cllr Howard believed it would “encourage responsible consumption, climate action and reducing the visual impact of posters while also ensuring equity between new and existing candidates. This has been adopted in many European towns and cities for many years”.
Rules for election posters are covered under section 19 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997 and the Electoral (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2009. Posters can only be erected after the polling day has been fixed by ministerial order and for a maximum of thirty days before polling day and they must be removed within seven days after polling day. The Regulation of Display of Electoral and Polling Posters and Other Advertisements Bill 2022 has not been enacted.
An agreement had been reached prior to the 2019 local elections that candidates in the Ennis MD would not use posters, Cllr Howard recalled, “Mark Nestor was the only person to use posters last time and he got elected, the rest of us didn’t and we still got elected”. She continued, “I personally hate posters, for months afterwards we in the Tidy Towns are taking down cable ties, if a poster comes down in the wind there are multiple cable ties left up”. She described them as “horrible and unsightly”.
“I’ve yet to meet someone who says they hate posters,” remarked Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) to which Cllr Howard interrupted, “I just told you I hate posters”. An atmosphere of an election is created by the posters and the buzz they bring, he added and felt the proposal would be “unfortunate for new candidates”. O’Callaghan said, “the whole ethos of an election is getting to know the candidates, if there is agreement I’m in favour of it but part of the ethos in Ireland for an election is having the literature. If it is a problem for committees then I’m in agreement”.
Attending funerals is a regular part of a politician’s scheduled and outside Kennedy’s Funeral Home in Ennis, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) observed that three cable ties were still on the pole outside. “I support this if central locations can be allocated. My only caution here to this is Ennis MD’s seven councillors agreeing to a self-binding code but any newbies or challengers wouldn’t be subject to it”.
Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) was in favour of having a designated area “rather than having posters outside undertakers and everywhere around the town”. Furhter support was voiced by Cllr Paul Murphy (FG). Elected representatives could fund the use of a designated site, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) suggested.
Sitting councillors need to be careful in what Cllr Ann Norton (IND) predicted will be a busy field. She stated, “one of the issues that I found at the last election was the sitting councillors had an agreement that we would go poster free and it really did end up defeating the purpose when every other candidate that was going to run didn’t follow our views, it is very hard to know how much a poster does or how important it is to have a poster up, it put me thinking because of the fact that there was no posters and then all of a sudden there was.
“Next year, I think there will be a lot of new candidates putting their head above the pulpit, we need to be very aware of the fact that we don’t want to do ourselves an injustice by not having posters where others have them”. She recalled having only ten posters when first elected in 2014. “If the pressure comes on then we will do everything we can to get elected,” the Barefield woman added.
Concluding the debate, Cllr Howard commented, “All of us adhered to it for the last election. A village like Whitegate has no posters and the same for Newmarket-on-Fergus whether it is a local, general or presidential election, we’re great for competitions and this could be a new one”.