Giro route 'must be poll-free zone'
Northern Ireland environment minister Mark H Durkan has urged all political parties to keep the route of next May's Giro d'Italia cycle race free of election posters.
As well as writing to all the party leaders, he is reviewing legislation around the erection of posters on lampposts.
With an estimated TV audience of 800 million in 165 countries, the race will be held in the run up to the European and local government elections.
Organisers believed coverage of the three days in Belfast, the North Coast and Armagh would be affected with prominent political billboards and placards along the streets and roadsides.
The first Northern Ireland stage of the race takes place on May 9 before the 200 riders head south for Dublin two days later. The Euro election will be held on May 22.
Mr Durkan told the Stormont Assembly today that there was a responsibility on all to showcase the Northern Ireland landscape
He said: "I believe there is a responsibility on us all to present the best possible picture of the North. And I believe a small step such as this by political parties would reap much greater collective benefits for the people of Northern Ireland.
"I have therefore written to all party leaders asking them for their views and co-operation on a voluntary political agreement that will ensure that, for the three days in May of the Giro d'Italia when Northern Ireland is on a global stage, there will be a poster-free route.
"I look forward to their responses and am hopeful that a positive political agreement can and will be found."
On plans for his review of the legislation around posters, Mr Durkan said: "The display of election posters is a cause of annoyance for many members of the public and political parties are reminded of this annoyance each and every election time.
"It is an issue I am very much aware of and it is something I am willing to look at. I have been considering a review of the current legislation before this proposal and as part of that review will examine a range of options including a ban."
Under current legislation Department of the Environment Planning writes to all political parties in advance of an election, reminding them of their statutory obligations for displaying election posters including positioning, road safety issues and subsequent removal within 14 days of the poll closing.
No advertisement may be displayed without consent granted by the Department but exemptions exist for election posters in advance of an election.