‘Its very clear that some candidates are using this for electoral purposes’

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A COUNCILLOR is calling on South Dublin County Council to adopt a new protocol for public meeting posters, after dozens went up around the county in recent days with the names and images of some election candidates featuring prominently – with smaller text advertising a public meeting.

Several public meeting posters have been put up across the county in recent days, in areas such as Clondalkin, Tallaght and Knocklyon, advertising meetings about topics such as Tallaght University Hospital and legal information, ahead of the upcoming local elections, which are ten weeks away.

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The posters up on poles heading into Clondalkin.

Posters for election candidates can only be displayed 30 days before polling day and must be removed within seven days after polling day, while posters advertising a public meeting can be in place for up to 30 days before and within seven days after the public meeting.

However, in Dublin City Council, posters advertising public meetings cannot be put up more than seven days in advance of the meeting.

Social Democrat councillor for Templeogue-Terenure, Dermot Looney, described some of the recent proliferation of public meeting posters as being “cynical self-promotion of election candidates who abuse our current regulations for their own gain, rather than genuine political or public meetings.”

Cllr Looney stated this in a question he submitted at Monday’s monthly meeting of South Dublin County Council, where he called on the council to adopt Dublin City Council’s protocol for public meeting posters – which stipulates that the name and picture of the individual hosting the meeting can only take up a maximum of 25 per cent of the poster.

In response to Cllr Looney’s question, the local authority stated, in part, that “there appears to be a recent escalation in the promotion of public meetings, and posters which are erected in contravention to Section 19(7) …will attract Fixed Penalty Notices.”

The council also reiterated the time frame that posters are permitted to be up for.

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Posters on the Firhouse Road, Greenhills Road and close to the Orlagh Roundabout.

Cllr Looney told The Echo: “I think posters are an important part of democracy and people should be entitled to put up posters, but I’m concerned that people are allowed to put up posters for very dubious so-called meetings.

“Legitimate meetings about things like BusConnects – I think they’re very important, but I think it’s very cynical for people to use public meetings as an excuse to promote themselves.

“It’s very clear that some candidates are using this for electoral purposes – the name and picture of the candidate is in a big section of the poster while the details of the public meeting are in smaller text.

“It’s great to see that people are holding public meetings, but the issue itself [that’s being discussed at the meetings] is what’s important, not the candidates themselves.”

Emer Higgins, a Fine Gael councillor for Clondalkin and a general election candidate for Dublin Mid-West, recently put up a number of posters to make members of the public aware of a public meeting she was holding for her constituents to get legal information.

Cllr Higgins told The Echo: “Over 60 people came to my meeting on the topic of legal information, and we looked at everything from wills to inheritance, and for an hour-and-a-half afterwards we had one-to-one legal queries. I feel it was a very worthwhile meeting to have

“When I put up posters for public meetings more people are aware of and engage with them, and engagement is what politics is all about.”

When asked how she’d feel if measures similar to Dublin City Council, which restricts the amount of space that can be taken up by a candidate’s name and image on a public meeting poster, were introduced in South Dublin, Cllr Higgins said: “That wouldn’t bother me.

“I’m having these events for people in the area. What I’m doing is communicating with members of the public and doing my civic duty as an elected representative.”

Posters for a protest about Orlagh roundabout, which was being held by Fianna Fáil councillor for Rathfarnham, Deirdre O’Donovan, were put up in the Knocklyon area in recent weeks.

Cllr O’Donovan told The Echo: “The posters I had up were to do with a protest after over 5,000 local people had signed a petition about the roundabout.

“It had nothing to do with self-promotion – it’s to do with speaking for [my constituents].

“It’s my job as a public representative to represent the views and concerns of people in the area, and public meetings are a vital part of that.”

Tallaght Community Council (TCC), a voluntary community, also voiced concerns about the general environmental impact of election posters.

TCC’s Tara De Builear told The Echo: “TCC know at first hand the impact in terms of litter election posters have on the local environment from the years of clean ups we have run.

“Election posters have been a staple in the rubbish removed from our parks and streams.” 

Ms De Buitlear added: “TCC understand that outdoor posters have been part and parcel of campaigns through the decades, but it doesn’t create a level playing field as not every candidate has the same financial capacity to use postering in their campaign.

“We would favour a controlled approach which affords every candidate the same opportunity to promote themselves and their campaign.”

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