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Ireland Dublin City Council to consider introducing 'exclusion zones' for election posters

10:30  03 december  2019
10:30  03 december  2019 Source:   thejournal.ie

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A BAN ON election posters in parts of Dublin through the establishment of “exclusion zones” is being considered by Dublin City Council as a measure to reduce the amount of posters used by candidates during elections.

Council management has proposed that the creation of specific areas where no posters will be permitted offers the best method of controlling the number of election posters erected in the city.

The council said the alternative of attempting to limit the number of posters permitted per candidate would be “extremely difficult to enforce … if not unworkable” unless it was linked to a permit scheme that provided for a remedy in case of breaches of poster limits.

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“Exclusion zones are considered to be the most manageable method of applying policy to the area as posters displayed within exclusion zones may easily be identified and removed,” the council said.

It added: “The city council does not have the resources to maintain counts of posters displayed or to inspect widespread locations on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance with such schemes.”

The council claimed arrangements to ban posters already existed in some parts of the city including O’Connell Street, Henry Street and Grafton Street under a poster protocol.

“The exclusion of poster displays in these locations has generally been well adhered to in election periods where candidates and parties have been requested to respect this arrangement,” said senior council official, Simon Brock.

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Legislation

The council has indicated that exclusion zones could be set up on the basis of urban village centres, main arterial routes, specific speed limited areas or commercial centres.

However, it stressed that there is currently no provision in legislation to allow the council to impose fines on candidates who breached rules on exclusion zones.

Brock said such provisions could only be introduced by the Oireachtas through specific regulations or amendments to primary legislation.

The council said the only remedy open to it was the removal of posters which breached any agreement on where they could be displayed.

It claimed another suggestion to limit the number of posters per pole was considered unworkable.

The council has also ruled out a proposal that certain areas would be provided in each administrative area for the display of posters as it would be difficult to ensure there was adequate facilities for all candidates to display an equal number of posters, while such spaces could also be prone to abuse or vandalism.

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The proposals are due to be discussed at a meeting of a council committee today.

Extending the zone

Council officials have suggested that initially councillors could consider extending the exclusion zone in the city centre area to mirror the boundaries of the Business Improvement District area.

They have also indicated that the council could consider introducing a scheme where candidates would be required to obtain a permit and potentially pay a deposit which could also cover the cost of a poster removal service.

For example, it said candidates could be required to pay a deposit of €200 to erect 200 posters which would be refundable if there was no breach of exclusion zones or limit on number of posters and €480 non-refundable charge for the removal of posters by the council as well as a €32 charge for each individual breach of the rules.

Brock said the suggested cost was designed to make the potential loss of the deposit as “unpalatable”.

A report prepared by the council said the restriction of the display of election posters is considered desirable for several reasons including the environmentally unsustainable nature of materials used in posters including plastic cable ties and the proliferation of posters which impacted on the city’s appearance.

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The report said the use of election posters in inappropriate and unauthorised locations posed a hazard to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as well as the visually impaired when displayed below the regulation height of 2.3 metres.

Dublin City Council issued more than €30,000 in fines this year for breaking rules on postering during the local and European elections.

A total of 232 fines were issued to candidates for either putting up election posters too early or failing to take them down within seven days of polling day with a possible maximum fine of €150 per poster for each infringement.

Council officials took down around 1,500 posters during the election campaign because they were either too low or obstructing traffic signs.

Over 200 complaints were made by members of the public about the location of posters.

It is estimated that candidates in Dublin used on average between 300 and 400 posters each during this year’s local election campaign.

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