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Election posters play a key role in reminding electorate of candidates

If it weren’t for the posters people wouldn’t have a breeze that there were elections coming up, says Alison O’Connor.

THERE has been a lot said about posters ahead of next Friday’s local and European elections. But to repeat a marvellous quote, recently heard and so wryly pertinent to political discourse: “Everything has been said but just not by everybody.” 

That came from Fianna Fáil Dublin candidate, Barry Andrews, as he was the final speaker at a debate among Dublin European election candidates organised by the Association of European Journalists. Mr Andrews didn’t let the side down by proceeding to give his own thruppence worth to bring proceedings to a conclusion. 

So I’m taking a similar attitude in taking this opportunity to say that people who object to political posters being hung on lampposts at election time really get on my wick.

It is the most ridiculous example of nimbyism grounded in almost zero logic and preciousness. A real “good front room” mentality. What is the problem here? 

We have an exercise in democracy ongoing at the moment and posters are a key part of that in informing the voters just who is standing. There are hundreds of thousands, I reckon, who would simply not have a clue that any election was happening in their absence.

This is a tradition in this country, as well as a courtesy and right that should be afforded to those people who are going to the bother of saying they would like to represent us, on this occasion, at local or European level. 

They add colour, create a bit of a buzz, inform, and give an opportunity on family car journeys to discuss the different styles and approaches of candidates.

“I’m not sure about his glasses, too prominent”; “I like her colours”; “Why does it mean when it says Independent?”. Around where I live every telegraph poll is packed with posters and we’ve noticed the diamond shaped ones being added in recent days, squeezed in between the more regular style.

“Pick me”, “no me”, the candidates are shouting to those of us noticing them as we pass. 

In the case of the local elections these are people from our neighbourhood who are putting themselves forward to represent us at the most basic political level, and in the European election at the key European Parliament level. 

I’ve heard from a number of candidates, as well as journalistic friends who are out and about covering the elections who say that if it weren’t for the posters people wouldn’t have a breeze that there were elections coming up.

Now this time last year I wanted to personally climb a few polls and tear down those utterly offensive anti abortion posters that provided such a horrible backdrop to the daily school run with the questions they provoked in children. But having them there, well that’s democracy, isn’t it. 

I suspect they actually galvanised many people to ensure that a yes vote prevailed. A car journey earlier this week with my youngest provoked a detailed poster conversation: “Why had the faces suddenly changed?” (we’d crossed the boundary into a new electoral area), the fact that one of the candidates was married to a candidate in a nearby area, both in the same party, that our friends were friends with the candidate from around the corner, and that another friend is a friend of the Fianna Fáil candidate.

That opened up a bit of a chat about what any of these people do if they are voted in and finally, the question I always hate, who would I be voting for? 

I don’t know because I usually only make my absolutely final decision at the ballot box. Not, I’ve discovered over the years of parenting, an answer a child likes because they believe that you’re holding out on them.

It’s not called a local election for nothing. 

We’ve had big issues with the Bus Connects plans, as well as proposals to change our road to metred parking so discussions around those issues have brought local politics right to our doorstep with lots of involvement from our existing local councillors.

As it happens one of the first memories of election posters to the junior members of my household was during a big snow a few years ago when an unfortunate candidate — who was elected, but shall remain nameless — unwittingly provided the means by which to sled successfully down the hill in the local park. 

If that didn’t create a fondness for posters in later life I’m not sure what else could.

What’s with the preciousness of these scenic areas and their TidyTowns committees banning posters? 

I bet the same people consider election literature is included in the “no junk mail” sign on their letterbox. Perhaps visitors to these places might admire the visual representation of democracy in action and realise they’ll only be around for a few weeks. 

Do those that bellyache to candidates on the doorstep about the environmental impact have much sense of irony when the candidate has had to side step the three cars, including a gas guzzling SUV, to get to the door?

Of course efforts should be made to make posters as environmentally friendly as possible but this is not easy when corryboard, which forms the backing for the poster, has been shown to be so durable. They should also be taken down properly, including cable ties. 

Legally they must be removed by Friday week or candidates — win or lose — will be fined.

AROUND 2,000 candidates are expected to contest the local council elections with almost 950 seats in 31councils around the country. The contest takes place across 166 local electoral areas. 

Rough estimates are that a local election candidate might have around 300 posters on average although those with deep pockets and a determination to be elected will often go higher. 

Obviously some will be damaged, whether by the elements or deliberately, but of what is left a large number will be hung on to for future use and that’s hardly a surprise given that they can cost an average of €5 each.

There is a certain level of smugness at work here as well as anti political sentiment. We would do well though to look to the right and left of us and see the political chaos at work in both the US and the UK to realise that democracy must be taken seriously by us all. 

Posters and literature are a small but key part of that. 

Of course going out to vote next Friday is the ultimate expression of that. If anyone forgets, well then, the posters they’ll come across throughout the day will be a key reminder to pop along to their local polling booth.

If it weren’t for the posters people wouldn’t have a breeze that there were elections coming up

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