Council Affairs: The return of the great poster war of 2019

Limerick County Council Offices in Dooradoyle.

TO poster or not to poster? That is the question. Sure didn’t I have the auld Smash Hits posters of The Smiths and The Cure plastered all over the bedroom walls when I was a pup. And this is just as familiar a tune, one we have heard before when local election season rolls around. Right on que, our pothole patriots are belting out the age-old classic once again.

If you want my humble opinion, and you’re going to get it whether you like it or not, this is just a brownie point seeking exercise from councillors.

It might win a few headlines and a couple of the cool kids might throw them the odd sympathy vote on behalf of our breathless planet, but this feels about as sincere as a dentist saying ‘this isn’t going to hurt a bit’.

Still, God loves a trier and you couldn’t be up to candidates on the hunt for votes when the scent of election has filled their ravenous nostrils.

And no better buachaills than the gang out in Adare-Rathkeale to lead the chorus. At their monthly area meeting, councillors recently considered election posters a waste of money and hit out at – get this – plastic cable ties being left behind when posters come down.

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My old mucker Cllr Stephen Keary had a motion calling for no election posters to be erected in the entire district. The former mayor took the view that posters are no more than the cause of pollution and litter in our lovely localities.

Cllr Keary went on to call on his fellow area representatives to lead by example and ban posters in the local elections.

Cllr Kevin Sheahan won’t be looking down at his constituents from lampposts one way or another, as he hangs up his boots after 39 years in local politics this June. But that wasn’t going to stop him getting his tuppence worth in. He called for serious legislation to deal with plastic cable ties remaining on poles when the posters are taken down.

A little birdy tells me that a recent workshop for councillors in the Metropolitan District to see posters done away with got a favourable response from management as alternatives were looked at.

As I have been saying for weeks now, Local Election 2024 is shaping up to be a very different contest, one that is clearly being battled on different fronts. Rather than pounding pavements and knocking on doors, a lot of the electioneering, at this early stage anyway, is still being carried out online on social media platforms.

Councillors in Adare-Rathkeale were told by the council executive at this month’s meeting that the current legislation allows for posters to be erected during an election period. This, of course, we know too well.

However, it is open to the elected members to agree not to erect posters in the run up to the elections in June, but such a decision is strictly by voluntary agreement. Councillors are well aware of this too and, while their hearts may be in the right place, there’s an element of bravado with it.

They were belting out the same tune back in 2019 as well. Back then, Newcastle West councillors put their money where their mouths were and agreed to a voluntary ban on election posters for the local elections and asked for councillors across the city and county to join them.

Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Collins tried to rally support in County Hall and deemed election posters a safety hazard, impeding sight lines, and a danger to the general public where they often blow off poles in stormy weather.

“In the 2014 local elections, 2,038 candidates ran for 765 seats. An estimated 611,000 posters were erected with a combined cost of €3million, with posters covering the equivalent area of 23 Croke Parks. This produced 366 tonnes of Co2, the equivalent of driving an average car non-stop for 592 days,” Cllr Collins explained at the time.

“After 30 days of canvassing, the majority of these posters were sent to landfill.”

Cllr Collins called on all local election candidates to go poster free during the local elections on the basis that there are other ways to get their message out to constituents by way of print media, social media, and meeting people on doorsteps.

Not everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet even back then though. Independent councillor Eddie Ryan told Cllr Collins that he had already gotten his posters printed and felt they do “no harm”.

“They’re a small wheel in our democracy and have their use. I give out mine to clubs in my area. One builder has got five years’ use out of them. He puts them down on the floor when he’s doing a job and takes them up and uses them again for the next job. They promote our democracy and are doing absolutely no harm,” he claimed.

The day when election posters are a thing of the past is fast coming, but we might have to suffer well-fed culchies with well-powdered bottoms grinning down at us from lampposts like gobdaws for a time yet.

God telpis all!