The Ulster Unionist Party Chairman, Lord Empey, has today sent a letter to the Chairs of the other parties in Northern Ireland seeking their comments as to how local parties campaign at election time.
Lord Empey is keen to explore whether or not a consensus can be reached whereby the parties agree a voluntary ban on erecting posters at election time.
The letter is reproduced below.
As we approach the third election cycle in as many years in May, I have felt for some time that this might be a time to revisit how we all campaign at such elections.
We all put up thousands of posters around our towns, cities and rural areas. 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.
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.
This matter was discussed before and there was an indication that the Environment department was going to bring forward proposals on how to proceed in this matter, but nothing has so far emerged.
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 £4.00 each and cost our parties and candidates tens of thousands of pounds each time.
Given that many people in our community would welcome an end to their use, might it not be a worthwhile gesture on our part to donate say 10% of what we were intending to spend on posters this year to local charities and not proceed to plaster Northern Ireland with them?
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.
I intend to put these ideas into the public domain.