An unusual motion appeared in this week’s Athlone Town Council agenda when sitting Fine Gael councillor and All Ireland Drama Festival organiser Alan Shaw motioned that candidates in the upcoming May 23 local elections would have regard for the RTÉ drama festival by refraining, where possible, from erecting posters in the town centre area until after May 9 when the festival ends.
The motion was met with a mix of anger and understanding by his fellow councillors, some of whom are standing for the Local Elections.
“This is a major investment by the national broadcaster and I just want everyone to be aware that the festival will have signs up in the coming week,” said Cllr Shaw, who himself is not running for LE14.
Candidates can only erect posters from April 23, which is 30 days before the polling date - but the drama festival is running from May 1-9, right the middle of prime canvassing time.
Sinn Féin councillor and Local Election candidate Paul Hogan was the first to react. “This is a disingenuous motion by a member of the council who’s not running for the elections. If there were a lot of festivals planned for the 30 days before the elections I’d understand...”
Cllr Hogan added that the council had a proud tradition of supporting the All Ireland Drama Festival and as visitors to the town will be well used to election posters on display in their respective areas, Athlone’s election posters shouldn’t be a problem.
Fianna Fáil councillor and candidate Aengus O’Rourke agreed that he couldn’t see the election posters having a negative impact on the festival. “In fact there are two festivals running in the town at the same time, the drama festival and the political festival!” he mused. “Posters will be up a few weeks at that stage, I’m sure the two events can proceed without conflict.”
Mayor of Athlone and candidate for Fine Gael, Gab McFadden, suggested candidates refrain from hanging posters on the ornate light posts of the town bridge, but Cllr O’Rourke reminded her that there are other candidates with posters other than those sitting in the council chambers.
Independent councillor Sheila Buckley Byrne, who announced her decision not run for LE14, sympathised with Cllr Shaw suggesting that he was just trying to remind candidates to be mindful during election time.