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Call for voluntary ban on election posters

By Noel McAdam

Published 29/01/2016

Posters of politicians festoon lamp posts in Belfast
Posters of politicians festoon lamp posts in Belfast

They clutter up roundabouts, road junctions and festoon lamp posts everywhere.

Then months later election posters are often left hanging, tattered and torn, like airborne litter.

Northern Ireland is set to be draped in them from pillars to posts yet again in May - the third infestation of huge faces, old and new, staring down, in as many years.

Unless, that is, the parties can bring themselves to keep the province a poster-free zone.

Seizing the initiative yesterday, the Ulster Unionist Party called for a voluntary ban on election posters for the Assembly election.

Chairman Sir Reg Empey has written to the other parties asking whether a consensus could be reached - and suggested they could save a fortune if they desist.

But he said parties could give 10% of their intended poster budgets to local charities.

"We all put up thousands of posters around our towns, cities and rural areas," his letter said.

"Many people believe these to be environmentally unfriendly, ugly and in a few cases dangerous to the public and even to our own election workers."

A voluntary ban was agreed for the Giro D'Italia two years ago - showcasing the route of the international cycle race which was broadcast to a global audience of 755 million people.

It was backed up, however, with political parties who were fighting the local government and EU elections being warned they would be fined £2,500 if posters were hoisted.

In his letter to his counterparts in the other parties, Lord Empey said: "There have been cases of members of the public or their property being hit by posters carried on strong winds as the plastic they are made from is very strong and sharp.

"Election workers have been hurt as they erect them on poles etc.

"I am suggesting to you that in the absence of any legal prohibition on the erection of these posters, we, as parties, agree a voluntary ban on them for the upcoming Assembly elections.

"Posters are very expensive, perhaps between £3.50 to £4 each and cost our parties and candidates tens of thousands of pounds each time.

"I fully accept that parties are unlikely to act unilaterally on this so as not to place our candidates at a disadvantage, but I would be interested to know your reaction to these ideas.

"I feel sure that a public debate on this would be of interest to determine the views of our constituents."

Though they are meant to promote our politicians, posters can also be damaging to them - literally in the case of Jim Wells.

In the 2011 Assembly election the former Health Minister displaced his collar bone after removing a poster in his south Down constituency.

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