Voting for poster-free candidates might make election posters disappear

To poster or not to poster, that is the question! Insider understands the continuing debate about using posters for the upcoming elections has put the cat among the pigeons in City Hall when it comes to candidates deciding their strategy for getting elected.

Ever since former Mayor and sitting councillor Pearce Flannery proposed a ban on plastic and cori-board posters on environmental and road safety grounds a growing debate has raged over how appropriate using posters actually is in a digital age. For those that do not know election posters are not made from paper, there are made from cori-board plastic that can take thousands of years to degrade.

Councillor Flannery who has been a lone voice and long time proponent of banning plastic posters has been joined by high profile City Councillor from the central ward Mike Cubbard and candidate Soc Dem candidate John Crowley in committing not to use plastic posters in the election.

During a recent proposal for sitting Councillors to enter into a voluntary code of conduct not to use posters, many sitting councillors became highly animated with one councillor branding the proposal as ‘nonsense and an interference with civil rights’ while his colleague somewhat dramatically called the initiative “an affront to democracy”. Playing to the gallery in order to justify ones indefensible position is common place in City Hall so nobody even batted an eyelid. Insider is well accustomed to such theatrics but even Insider becomes weary at such self serving rhetoric.

There is no doubt that Cllr’s Pearce Flannery, Mike Cubbard and Crowley have tapped into the public mood where Insider understands that the overwhelming majority of the public want to see the back of what is generally regarded as an eye-sore and a practice that hugely damaging to the environment and a problem for road safety. The RSA have come out clearly and unequivocally against election posters on grounds of road and public safety. In essence the general public have clearly indicated that they do not like election posters and want to see an end to the practice of postering.

Insider understands that many candidates have experienced the poster jitters and are unsure how many to erect so as not to be branded as litter bugs. Although as the election is now in full swing the extent of the postering problem is evident.

The tide of public opinion on postering is definitely turning and many of the pro-poster candidates are nervous. Although many new candidates and some of the European candidates do not seem to worry and are delighted to avail of the extra poster space provided by the reticence of the local election candidates.

So what is the problem?

Corrugated plastic, commonly known as Corriboard is the material of choice for election posters. Like other single use plastics, they take 4000+ years to biodegrade. In the 2014 local elections, 2038 candidates ran for 949 seats.

An estimated 611,000 posters were erected with a combined cost of €3M with posters covering the equivalent area of 23 Croke Parks. In many areas, these posters were a safety and driving hazard, often obscuring important road signage. After 30 days of canvassing, the majority of these posters were sent to landfill.

The plastic pollution problem has become so severe it is now regarded by many as being on a par with climate change in its danger to human survival on the planet. Plastic posters are damaging our environment and can seriously affect the health of our children.

So why do it?

The general consensus amongst sitting councillors was that it was essential to use posters if one wants to get elected. Out of sight out of mind was the plaintive cry heard from the distressed council body in the chamber.

Other sitting councilors with straight faces said that first time candidates would be at a disadvantage without posters. Now Insider has been watching the political process in City Hall for many years and has never yet found a sitting councilor to care about the electoral chances of a competitor or ever do anything that would ever help someone trying to take their seat. So is the answer really that their refusal to ban posters was selfish self interest? Insider suspects self protection is the motivation masquerading as a commitment to the democratic process.

I was amused to note a recent report that listed the councilors that voted against the hospice on environmental grounds and yet voted in favour of using posters.

The environment evidentally takes a back seat when ones seat is at risk but is of sufficient importance to vote against the providing a site for an essential health care facility at other times. A case of ‘Lord let me become pure but not just yet’ seems to have infected many in the council body.

Insider also notes that the chair of Galway Tidy towns can also be seen peering down myopically from many of the poles in the west of the city. Tidy towns are great but not when I need to get elected appears to be his new election slogan here.

The recent controversy against dumping and in Ballybane is another case in point with many Councillors falling over themselves to condemn such behavior as they peer down at the problem from their lofty littery perches on the lampposts of the east side.

So what about the environment?

Cllr Cubbard cited evidence that 25,000 posters were used in Galway City at the last election. All of these take 10,000 years to degrade and go into landfill. Many of the current group stated that theirs would be recycled but all plastic without exception eventually goes into landfill or is incinerated. So this defence appears to be nothing but self serving rhetoric.

So is recycling an acceptable response?

Insider was presented with evidence that recycling is not working and does not address the plastic pollution problem. Plastic election posters fall under the category of single use plastics, or low multiple use. The EU has introduced a directive banning the top 10 single use plastics coming into effect no later than 2021. Recycling is not the silver bullet to our waste or climate change problems.

According to the EU’s waste frame work directive, we should ‘prevent’ and ‘re-use’ before we consider recycling, thus, we should prevent this waste before it happens. Even if we resort to recycling, plastic can only be recycled a few times before it is no longer recyclable. Thus, all recycled plastic ends up in landfill or incineration not to mention the precious energy and water required to recycle.

And of course insider is fully aware of the fact that the recycling of plastic is resulting in the dumpling of plastic mountains in SE Asia especially since China refused to take in any more waste plastic. In essence the world is drowning in plastic.

So what can you do?

Many municipal areas and local authority districts (over 100 of them to date ) have agreed a protocol amongst themselves not to use plastic election posters. Insider was disappointed to find that at the heel of the hunt only Cllr Flannery and Cllr Cubbard in Galway City Council, a so called Green Leaf City have the courage of their convictions to support Cllr Flannery’s proposal and remain poster free in this election.

If the general consensus is that a candidate cannot get elected without using posters, insider suggests that this theory must be proven wrong.

Voting for the poster free candidates in this election will without doubt ensure that come the next elections posters will become a thing of the past. If using posters is perceived as being a disadvantage instead of an advantage, Insider suggests posters will immediately be consigned to history along with megaphone canvassing on the back of lorries at the church gate.

In the 21st century it is time to move on.

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