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The untold story of this infamous election poster

Clifford T Reid ran as an independent in the 2004 European elections with a slogan that caught the eye.

cliff Source: Irish Election Literature

AS ELECTION SLOGANS go there are few as memorable as that of Clifford T Reid.

The slogan – Stop the Paedophiles – adorned his election literature and posters over a decade ago and repeatedly crops up around election time as an example of one of the more bizarre campaign publicity stunts.

But Cliff Reid, as he’s more commonly known, insists his campaign was about raising serious issues. Aged just 25 in 2004, Reid decided to contest the European elections as an independent in the old Ireland East constituency.

From Athy in Co Kildare, it was Reid’s first foray into national politics having previously served as a town councillor and as president of Carlow IT students’ union.

“We had three major issues. One was the high number of road deaths, then abuse cases and also suicide,” the former prison officer told TheJournal.ie today.

They just weren’t being discussed or talked about it and the government were doing nothing about it.

While political parties could afford to put thousands of euro into campaigns to get the their candidates elected, Reid had to fund his own efforts.

cliff reid facebook

What’s more, as an independent, publicity was hard to come by:

It was back in the day before social media and trying to get your message across was different from what it is now.

“The likes of Facebook and Twitter make it very accessible, but at that time you either got on the radio, the TV or in the papers or you didn’t get anywhere.”

Wanting to highlight one of the campaign’s three core issues on his posters and the front of his literature, Reid and his small team settled on a slogan that was eye-catching to say the least.

“It was all for the shock factor, there’s no doubt about it,” he admits, although he was not without ideas about how to ‘stop the paedophiles’.

clifftrb The back of Reid's leaflet in 2004 Source: Irish Election Literature

These included providing more rehabilitation programmes in prisons, electronic tagging for sex offenders released on probation, and setting up a sex offenders register so people could check if they lived near a registered offender.

Despite the obvious concerns about the potential for vigilantism, Reid takes the view that “the priority has to be with the kids”.

The safety of kids has to be more important than the safety of the sex offender. We’re hiding them away. By letting people know they are there at least I know this danger exists in my community and I can warn my kids to never go near that area.

His campaign and the slogan attracted the attention of every media outlet from RTÉ to Sky News at the time.

There were a few “smart alecks” who made jokes about the poster at Reid’s expense but, 12 years on, he insists that a “serious message” got across to a lot of people.

People go by posters and don’t even see them. It had a big impact, people still know it and it registered with people, so it was very effective.

Despite the publicity, Reid got nowhere near being elected but did pick up over 12,000 votes – the most of any independent candidate who ran in the now-abolished Ireland East.

A few years later, he featured on the RTÉ programme Beyond Endurance, where participants retraced the steps of Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean.

But to political anoraks he is more famous for his political exploits.

He ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 general election in Kildare South – there were no provocative posters in that campaign – and has since given up on politics, saying he has no ambitions in a “different political landscape”.

Now 36, Reid is currently working as a kayaking instructor and freelances in PR and marketing. He looks back fondly on the poster and its impact.

“I ran at the time because of those issues. You always have a grá for politics, there’s always that but I’d rather enjoy the finer things in life,” he adds.

‘Completely different’: Peter Mathews says he’s not copying Fine Gael colours

More: Catch all of our election coverage over at TheJournal.ie Election Centre >

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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