Election posters scattered on poles along the roadside in Longford PICTURE: SHELLEY CORCORAN
W ith the local and European elections just around the corner, May 24, the topic of election poster use has been to the forefront of conversations, with many people calling for a countrywide ban on their use.
A total of 152 towns/areas are now officially poster free across Ireland, with 91 candidates pledging their commitment to abstaining from the use of election posters. Ballymahon is one of 152 areas to participate in the campaign, although posters have begun to appear in prominent locations on the outskirts of the town.
As it stands, politicians are permitted to hang their posters for a thirty day period in the run up to the election. There is a seven-day window following the conclusion of the elections to remove any posters.
Support of the poster-free campaign has led to many political influences lauding the benefits of using posters. Outgoing Independent MEP Marian Harkin was one of the first to show her support, saying the ban only benefits the larger parties and wealthy individuals who can afford larger means of advertising such as billboards.
“That only benefits big parties/wealthy individuals who can afford billboards and those who already have a national profile through media etc. It discriminates against first timers,” she tweeted.
Johnny Fallon, well known Newtowncashel political commentator and author, also added his support to the pro-election poster movement. He noted that going poster-free holds no environmental benefits, as many have claimed.
“Areas going poster free achieves nothing for the environment. They will not reduce the number of posters but simply shift the problem down the road to other locations creating a bunching of posters which is worse,” he tweeted.
Mr Fallon said in elections like the presidential campaign, posters don’t hold as much importance, but said they are vital to local elections. Many candidates, predominantly first-timers, have echoed these sentiments and said they would struggle to get their name out there and message across, were it not for said posters.
Enplast Extrusions Ltd in Granard, Co Longford, the only manufacturers of extruded twin-wall polypropylene in the south of Ireland, were keen to dispel the myths surrounding the environmental impact of the aforementioned election posters.
The company, which was first established in 1995, make all of their produce from recyclable, lightweight, cost-effective materials and these products include election posters. Bridie O’Reilly of Enplast criticised the poster-free campaign and says the public are completely unaware that the posters are recyclable.
“They are fully recyclable. Any waste material that is made here on site, is all ground up and goes back into making construction product here in Granard and any posters that are brought back here are ground up and used in to make that construction product.
“We use up to 80% recycled materials in our construction product,” she explained.
Bridie says the problem is that politicians simply don’t bring their posters back to them for recycling and said the onus should be on them to do so.
“We are in business here since 1995 and many times over the years we have put the word out to our distributors that we take back the posters, but we still have only got back maybe only five or six pallets of posters and we take them back free of charge!”
She remarked, “It is very frustrating. We found out after the last election that there is a company in the north east of Ireland that ship out container loads of posters to China for recycling. It is not going into a landfill, that is a myth. They go to recycling companies.
“The material is fully recyclable. It doesn’t have to go to the landfill. We can recycle it here or it can be sent to recycling units. Up to 80% of it can be used.”
In direct contrast to these views are the team behind the posterfree.ie campaign, Zerowaste.ie.
“It has become clear that the majority of our electorate would like to see poster free elections.
“Our environment is in want of them too. PosterFree.ie is now calling for a national voluntary ban, marking the beginning of the end for plastic election posters,” a spokesperson for Zerowaste said.
“In a recent Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research poll, 77% of respondents said that they thought the use of posters during election campaigns should be banned. Similarly, across other Facebook and Twitter polls, over 90% of respondents favoured of a poster free election.”
Longford politicians George Breaden, Cllr Seamus Butler and John Kenny, have joined the poster-free cause and will not erect any campaign posters ahead of the elections.
They have been joined by Independent councillor, Gerry Warnock, who as in his previous campaign, will not erect posters of any kind.
“Just like 2014 I will not be erecting on-street posters for LE19.This is not intended as a slight or a rebuke to other candidates who do use posters, it's just a personal choice for me,” Cllr Warnock posted on Facebook.
Yay or nay to election posters?