It’s little over a week since the election was called and already the landscape is blighted with posters - faces peering out from every telegraph pole, junction and roadside.
Every election, multiple voices call for a ban on such posters; yet every election they still dominate.
In this modern era of multi-media and social media, it is difficult to understand why election posters still play such a huge role in the PR campaigns of various candidates. When one looks at the success on multi-media platforms of the recent marriage equality referendum in Ireland, in getting a message across to an electorate; posters seems somewhat archaic.
And it’s not just social media, there are traditional methods of advertising (newspapers and radio), not to mention good old-fashioned flyers via post and the ‘soap box’ outside mass and football matches.
Certainly plastering the territory with your mug shot will aid recognition but will it really translate into votes? I have yet to see convincing evidence in that regard.
When you consider the cost of such posters (€7 a poster according to Fianna Fáil’s Niamh Smyth, who claims to have had 70 of her posters stolen last week), it seems like such a waste of good money.
Yes elected candidates can recoup a certain amount of their election campaign costs; and political parties (provided they have met their gender quotas) have access to funds, but it’s all largely taxpayers’ money at the end of the day.
The financial aspect of it aside, such posters are unsightly, can lead to litter (recent storms are certain to have blown quite a few away already) and are a distraction to motorists. They can pose a road hazard, not to mention a danger to those volunteers charged with erecting the posters and, of course, taking them down within seven days after polling day.
There are certain towns or villages that succeed in having posters banned - for example Glenties in Donegal, where the local development group secured the co-operation of all candidates not to erect posters. Similarly, the Tidy Towns group in Glenealy, Co Wicklow, had success with their respective candidates.
But these examples are solely down to the determination of local community groups and dependant on the co-operation of relevant candidates, who still have a right under law to erect such posters within 30 days of polling day, provided they are removed a week later. The fines, for those found to have contravened the law, are €150 per incident.
Surely, it is time to change the law in this regard or at the very least review it. Change the act to ban all election posters, unless they are situated in dedicated outdoor advertising space.
There are those who say that such a move would only serve to benefit the bigger political parties but with all the modern methods of communication that are available today, I don’t believe that.
As far as I can see, everyone rolls out the posters, on cue, because it’s the done thing, part of the election bandwagon and candidates feel ‘if everyone else is doing it, I don’t want to be the one left out’.
There is that real fear too that the ‘recognition’ factor has, at least, some sort of subliminal effect on the voting. But surely the extent of posters by every Tom, Dick and Harry has diluted any such benefit in this day and age.
It’s high time to make a change for the better. Perhaps candidates could better use the time spared by putting up such monstrosities to canvas a few more doorsteps or put some more thought into their manifestos.