Fury as candidates' vans spotted in disabled parking zones
ELECTION candidates whose vehicles have been spotted in disabled parking spaces have been criticised by a national organisation representing people who have suffered severe spinal injuries.
Spinal Injury Ireland, which has has over 1,600 members, says "more education is needed" for politicians after a number of images emerged.
The pictures show vehicles associated with candidates from both the European and local election contests using the specially-designated parking spots.
The group's CEO Colm Whooley said he was very disappointed by the images.
"We would hope that the politicians would lead by example. Present politicians or aspiring politicians are the ones who should be leading by example.
"Looking at these pictures, I think we still have a long way to go in educating the public on the real need for these.
"They're not privileged parking spaces. As a wheelchair user myself, there's a real reason why these spaces are here," he said.
One candidate whose vehicle was caught using a disabled parking spot was Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins. She was inundated with angry comments on social networks after a picture of her campaign van, complete with megaphone and 'Vote No 1 Lorraine Higgins' signage appeared online.
Ms Higgins subsequently posted on her Facebook page: "Thanks for bringing this to my attention. A driver putting up posters this morning before 8am made an honest mistake outside a shop. I've spoken to him and it won't happen again."
Another picture showed a campaign van for Councillor Linus English parked on a disabled spot outside a kebab shop in his Louth constituency.
Mr English, a Fine Gael candidate, said his 19-year-old son had parked the van illegally after going into the takeaway.
He said it was a "stupid mistake" and that he hadn't realised it was specially-designated spot.
Another image showed Ben Gilroy's van in a wheelchair space outside the SuperValu in Ratoath, Co Meath.
However, the Direct Democracy Ireland candidate said this image should not have been included with the others as he was merely reversing into the spot to turn his vehicle when an "opportunistic political rival" took the photograph.
"My own father-in-law is wheelchair-bound and we're very angry when people use these spaces. It's just a cheap, dirty trick and I'm really upset by that," he said.