Is it time to ban election posters?

The UUP chairman, Lord Empey has written to other parties seeking to ban election posters on lampposts.

Here is what he had to say;

Dear Chair, 

 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

Kind regards

Lord Reg Empey Kt OBE


Ulster Unionist Party

What do you all think?

  • Croiteir

    I note that you use East Antrim in the pic. In that area I must commend Sinn Fein on this issue. They have taken the middle ground on this issue as they still have a poster up from the last election at the bottom of the Ballymena Rd in Carnlough. That is great – saves paper and is good for the environment.

  • patrick23

    They can be useful for name recognition for smaller parties. Many would never have heard of say, the Worker’s Party, but for their innumerable posters (and the odd documentary about the postal system)

  • Cavehill

    Yes, get rid of them! Unfortunately McGuinness on The View last night didn’t commit SF to it. If other parties want to, SF would think about it, apparently, rather than saying ‘if all the other parties said they wouldn’t, we wouldn’t too’.

  • Ernekid

    Has any ones voting intention ever been swayed by an election poster? Has there ever been a case where some one is in a real dilemma about who to vote for only for them to look up and see a poster featuring a bad photograph of an ugly balding middle aged man and thinks “I know!, I’ll vote for them!”

    I think election posters do have their uses. A few years ago, when we had a heavy snowfall, me and a couple of friends re purposed some election posters that were found under a hedge to use as toboggans.
    We found in the downhill race between the UUP poster and the Sinn Fein poster, the UUP won every time. Theres a metaphor in that somewhere.

  • Greenflag 2

    Lord Empey is right . I doubt if a poster ever changed a vote although name recognition is probably a factor for the lesser known candidates .. Perhaps a half way house solution might be possible where a particular area or areas in each district or constituency is set aside for posters for a limited time period before an election and are all promptly removed the day after an election by the local council /party activists . Those parties failing to remove same could be fined 1,000 pounds per day for late removal with proceeds going to local charities ?

  • Jag

    “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?”

    How about substituting “flags” for “posters”?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think if we are going to get rid of Election Posters then smaller parties or independents should receive more media profile, as the system currently deployed now by the Media and its Political Interviews is very much over weighted in favour of the Big Parties.

  • Reader

    Ernekid: Has any ones voting intention ever been swayed by an election poster?
    Well, not us obviously. Other people. The ones who are affected by advertising, brand recognition, name recognition. But not us – we aren’t affected.
    Parties have another reason for their posters – vote balancing. At one end of town, the posters say “Vote A/1 B/2”. At the other end of town “Vote B/1 A/2”
    I like the UUP idea, if the big 5 parties will accept it, then at least one of the election irritations will be alleviated. But we’ll probably find out that a DUP supporter runs a business that produces the damned posters and it will all come to nothing.

  • banana man

    We are asked this every year and every year nothing ever moves forward with this. A monumental waste of money on something that can only be used once (or twice if you count bonfires). I just think the parties could spend this money on better leaflets etc which might help move Northern Ireland politics onto less of a sectairian headcount.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    How are kids going to make those scary Hallowee’n masks up without the raw material?

    Seriously, the absolute lack of professionalism or any real thought in the creation of these posters (I except some of the Alliance Yellow posters, especially the drawing of Anna Lo) makes them a form of pollution in themselves. And the graphic message is quite negative for anyone who knows anything about design (the “designers” either don’t or are “havin’ a laugh”)…………..

  • Sharpie

    Ban the environmental detriment as a start – no plastic allowed, made from recycled materials and must be recycled after use and limit on the amount allowed based on an agreement among the parties themselves. .

  • aquifer

    Flags are semi-permanent free adverts for Unionists and paramilitaries, surely they need planning permission more than we need a poster ban.

  • Granni Trixie

    An educated guess is that all parties would LOVE not to have to bother with posters because they use up resources – to produce them and to out up and take down. Why do they do it? Because they risk being at a disadvantage if they do not do so as long as other parties do. In other words the only way it will happen is if ALL agree not to put up posters so it is unlikely to happen.
    It is not that posters are likely to influence voters in themselves rather that posters are but one element in a raft of measures designed to build up candidate and party profile and as we know, voter recognition is known to be major influence on how they vote.

    Let’s just hope this year that there are no silly sexist comments on poster images.

  • Pete

    Yes I think they should be banned.

  • CB


  • In most parts of England large public posters are banned. So parties produce thousands of window posters for supporters, and print up to 13 leaflets delivered through the doors in a 6 week campaign (that is what Labour did in one highly contested ward in Oxford in 2014).

    If posters are banned in Northern Ireland, expect to get many more leaflets.

    And the aim is less to persuade people to change their vote to your party, as to keep on reminding your supporters to actually go and vote on polling day. At least in Belfast I was never asked, as in Oxford, “Oh, is there an election? I didn’t know.”