Poll posters on Giro route ruin showcase
A GILT-edged opportunity to showcase the Republic's tourism appeal to a global audience of 775 million people will be ruined because of thousands of election posters littering the route of the Irish leg of the Giro d'Italia.
Worldwide TV coverage of the north-east coast, Dublin Bay and the city centre will be spoiled by lamp post after lamp post adorned with council and Euro-election posters.
The proliferation of election posters stretches from the border to the heart of the capital at Merrion Square and threatens to derail attempts to reap an economic dividend worth millions in legacy tourism.
In the North, 19 political parties fighting in local government and EU elections face a €3,000 fine if they hoist posters along the route of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro d'Italia – second in prestige only to the Tour de France.
Stormont's Environment Minister Mark Durkan announced the ban on postering as all of the major agencies in the North galvanised efforts to maximise economic returns from professional cycling's blue riband event.
The North expects an initial tourism bounce worth nearly €3m from visitors attending for the event, with a knock-on benefit which will bring cyclists and non-cyclists to the Laganside and the Antrim coast for years to come.
The ban on postering in the North has been augmented by emergency legislation to punish candidates and parties that flout the regulations.
But in the Republic there is no such ban, and there was little enthusiasm when the removal of postering along the route was mooted by the organisers of the Giro's three-day Irish sojourn.
The first three stages North and South will be only the 10th occasion since 1909 that Italy's grand tour has left its home country.
As well as a massive TV audience worldwide, more than 300,000 fans are expected to line the routes.
Darach McQuaid of Shadetree Sports, local organisers on behalf of Giro owners RCS MediaGroup, raised the issue of stopping postering along the South's race route at a meeting of the Republic's Race Organising Committee, which was attended by the four local authorities where the race passes through: Louth Co Council, Meath Co Council, Fingal Co Council and Dublin City Council.
"The local authorities were all hemming and hawing and saying they didn't have the powers to stop the postering. There wasn't a lot of will there on the councils' part. It's disappointing. It looks absolutely awful," Mr McQuaid said.
"This was a chance to really put our best foot forward in relation to the economic benefits from bringing such a prestigious sporting event to this country.
"Cycling tourism is now a major economic driver, but this is also an opportunity to showcase the country as a place to visit for a massive general audience," he said.
The race begins next Friday at the Titanic Centre in Belfast with a time trial around the city. On Saturday, nearly 200 riders will take on the Giant's Causeway route from the north coast to Belfast.
The Northern authorities have spent huge sums cleaning up towns and villages along the route.
The race comes to the Republic on Sunday, taking in a tour of Co Armagh before heading across the border towards Dundalk, Castlebellingham and Drogheda, along the coast through Skerries, Swords, Malahide, Baldoyle, Clontarf, Alfie Byrne Road, East Wall Road, the 02, North Wall Quay and Custom House Quay.
It will cross the Liffey at Talbot Memorial Bridge, then head towards City Quay, Lombard Street, Westland Row and Lincoln Place before the expected sprint finish at Merrion Square at around 4.30pm.