A lot of debate took place recently regarding the use of election posters and the possibility of banning them ahead of the upcoming Local and European elections in May. During this debate I proposed an amendment that would see Galway City follow towns and cities in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and France where designated locations are more common rather than a plethora of posters taking up every lamp post and street corner in the city.
I do not believe a complete ban on posters is fair on new candidates however; I believe the use of dedicated areas would allow a more equal showing for all candidates.
As an Independent candidate in 2014 I used 100 posters which in the end I feel were hidden amongst the multiples of this amount where larger parties in particular are in a better position to spend more money on poster campaigns.
WhilE I am in favour of a fair and equal opportunity for all election candidates, I actually believe the current system favours those in the larger political parties.
If 12 candidates contest the local election in May in Galway City Central and each were to use an average of 300 posters we’d see 3,600 erected before a host of European election candidates also put up posters. The total number will be staggering. A limited amount for each candidate in designated areas is the only solution which creates a level playing field for all.
We also must start thinking more of the environment in this regard and follow other policy changes where single use plastics have been banned in schools and all Government departments. While not proposing a complete ban, I believe we can develop a voluntary code for all candidates to agree on for further elections where designated areas only are used and a limited amount of posters in each area for each candidate. Given that some candidates may have ordered posters by now, I accept that this would not be possible for May 2019.
There is also a concern for volunteers within my campaign team in terms of health and safety, with six storms already recorded in Ireland in 2019 we are seeing more frequency in high winds.
Another concern would be the potential of a poster coming lose and injuring a member of the public. It is impossible to get insurance cover for such scenarios therefore the candidate themselves is exposed to a potential lawsuit.
With all of this in mind, I have made a decision together with my campaign team that I will not use election posters this coming May.
Whilst some disagree with this move, I feel someone needs to make a stand, someone needs to show the courage to step away from this dated way of campaigning and show that there are alternative ways to get your message across.
With under 12 weeks to go until polling day, I have begun an initial leaflet drop of my electoral area announcing to residents that I will be contesting the election.
From mid-March onwards I will then be going door to door to meet voters, discuss issues facing their communities and allow them put a face to the name – a big part of a poster campaign.
I have designed an A4 paper poster that many of my supporters have taken to use at their own home for indoor use on windows and doors. I will be as visible as others without having to use the large posters.
My social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ) are very active where I have good interaction on a daily basis with people across Galway and further afield. will continue to use this as a means to campaigning and getting my message across. I intend to meet as many people across Galway City Central as possible between now and May 24 so when the votes are counted I am not regretting a non-poster campaign.
Some may say it’s a foolish decision, some may say it’s a brave one but I genuinely believe if we are not going to use designated areas where all candidates have the same number of posters, my limited amount would have little impact amongst a few thousand posters between all candidates and only cause further damage to the environment as the long lasting plastics used can last over 2000 years.
I look forward to the campaign ahead. I look forward to developing and putting into practice new ideas and new ways to ensure voters know I am running, to ensure my views on issues of importance are known and that voters know what my priorities will be if returned for a second term to Galway City Council.
I believe this is certainly achievable in a local election and then hopefully by the time a General Election is called many other candidates will agree that designated areas for election posters is the way forward for a progressive and more environmentally conscious Ireland.