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Aaron McKenna: A citizen’s guide to fighting the scourge of cable ties left on lamp posts

Political hopefuls call for better public spaces, clean streets, motherhood and apple pie – but many are happy to leave their campaigning rubbish about.

Aaron McKenna

IN AN ERA of digital communications and universally-accessible mass media the election poster remains, alongside door to door canvassing, an erstwhile feature of campaigning that a time traveller from a hundred years ago would easily recognise. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that Roman plebs would have to get up and go answer the door to the dreaded canvasser in the evening; and pity them, for Rome held elections annually.

In every election the posters, which are one of the least effective methods of mass megaphone marketing available, become a character in the campaign. Good posters and bad posters are commented upon; poster placement is an issue, particularly relatively low down (if, like me, you’re in the 2 metre range of height); and putting up your posters a day or two early can attract serious fines and comment. Sometimes the traditional photo call of a candidate putting up a poster can even be entertaining, such as the Rumble in Ranelagh between John Gormley and Michael McDowell in 2007.

For the most part, politicos are interested in posters and the rest of the population suffer them. Now that the election is over, they are due to be taken down within the week. We can return to enjoying the greenery, the scenery, and unobstructed views of traffic lights. Politicians are well warned to get their posters down, or face hefty fines.

What better way to demonstrate community spirit?

Most standard sized posters will have two cable ties attaching them to the post. Unfortunately, many politicians are less bothered to ensure that the ties get taken down with the poster.

Political hopefuls go around for months extolling their virtuous commitment to community. They call for better public spaces, clean streets, motherhood and apple pie. They complain about councils frittering away public money. And then they go and leave up their cable ties, usually for the council to take down. Why? Because they can. Because there’s no votes in it, no sanction to their pockets and only a very slim chance that they’ll get caught for not taking down their rubbish.

You can take from that what you will about how many politicians really view us and public service.

A simple solution

The rather sensible solution to this problem has been bandied around for years and will likely be again in about a week. This is to make candidates or political parties use cable ties of a particular colour, such as blue for Fine Gael, red for Labour, and so on. Independent candidates could get an individual colour each. It’d be fairly apparent who left their cable ties up after the election. This would motivate everyone to get them down, or face fines.

This solution is so simple one has to wonder why it hasn’t been implemented already, until one considers that politicians themselves generally set the rules about how elections are conducted. In any event, while this sort of a measure will help us come the next election it isn’t going to do anything over the next few weeks.

We do have tools to help encourage politicians to get their posters down. Over the next few days before the posters come down, you should take the time to take a few pictures of some lamp posts you pass regularly; such as on your daily commute. (Not while driving, please.)

When or as the posters come down, snap another picture of the lamp post for comparison. If there are still a load of cable ties up, some or all of the candidates haven’t been obeying the rules or respecting their community. Send them, and the council, a note. Post it on Twitter and Facebook. Send the pictures to us.

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Please, take your rubbish with you

I know it’s not as effective an action to take as catching poster teams in the act and slapping a fine on them, but it’s probably the best we can do. Leo Varadkar reckons he and his merry band pulled down about 10,000 cable ties belonging to other parties in Dublin West alone after the last general election. There’s enough lamp posts and candidates to catch some folks out, and shame politicians into getting their cable ties down.

It was an interesting election. But not interesting enough to warrant keeping plastic mementos around everywhere for the next few months. Let’s encourage some politicians to do the right thing and take all their rubbish with them.

Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for He is also involved in activism in his local area. You can find out more about him at or follow him on Twitter @aaronmckenna. To read more columns by Aaron click here.

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