Communications Minister Denis Naughten and the Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, have clashed over controversial ads for Eircode. The latter has described the broadcasts as “stupid”.
Mr Naughten has defended the adverts, which have been broadcast on TV and radio, though the advertising watchdog told complainants that they were misleading.
However, his cabinet colleague, Ms Doherty, said the adverts wrongly insinuate that ambulance services will not reach the scene of an emergency on time — or at all — if callers do not use their Eircode.
Following complaints, a document issued by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland initially found the Eircode ads were misleading and that they breached four sections of its code.
The Irish Examiner revealed that despite communicating its initial decision to the three complainants who made submissions against the ads, the ASAI subsequently changed its position and said it had no remit to uphold complaints, because the subject matter was a public service broadcast.
Reacting to the story on social media, Ms Doherty tweeted “close loophole asap — stupid ad”.
“It is my view that all bodies who advertise should be subject to the same rules, standards, and governance,” Ms Doherty told this paper.
Asked about her description of the ads as “stupid”, Ms Doherty said: “While Eircode can, indeed, assist in directing emergency services to the location of an incident, the insinuation in this ad is that an emergency may not be reached on time, or at all, without the use of Eircode.
“I do not feel that this is representative of the work of the members of our National Ambulance Service, who work tirelessly and efficiently every day, both with and without the use of Eircode,” she said.
However, the Department of Communications — which signed off on the ads — refused to comment on the initial ASAI ruling.
“The ASAI did not find Eircode in breach, the case was deemed outside of the remit of the code, and, therefore, no further analysis was completed by the ASAI,” the department said.
A statement on behalf of Mr Naughten defended the broadcasts. “One of the benefits of using Eircodes is to make it easier to find addresses, including in an emergency situation,” the minister said.
“The rationale for the recent Eircode advertisement was to remind the public of the benefits of using Eircodes, when calling for an ambulance.
“Since the advertisement, the ambulance service have noticed an improvement in the elderly population knowing their Eircode, which demonstrates the value of introducing the system,” Mr Naughten said.
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