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Labour slams voter register oversight

THERE will be no major advertising campaign to encourage voters to register, it has emerged.

Despite the impending election, the Department of the Environment does not intend spending money on a publicity drive.

A spokesman told the Herald there will be no major awareness campaign, though "something" will be spent on highlighting special votes.

Labour's environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy described the department's stance as "short-sighted".

"Surely now is the time to promote the electoral register. They spent money on other campaigns -- they spent millions promoting awareness of climate change.

"But this is all about democracy and people's engagement with politics," she said.

The Dublin Mid-West TD told the Herald it is a pity because "a lot of people are taking an interest in this election".

She said people may not know that they can still sign up to vote on a supplementary register, even after an election is called.

"They should have a PR strategy. They don't have to pay loads of money for that. I certainly think they should do something. When we go around canvassing, a lot of people wouldn't know there is such a thing as a supplementary register. A lot of them have just turned 18 and they are entitled to vote. It's very short-sighted [by the department]," she said.

But the department spokesman insisted there will be no extensive ad campaigns "at this stage".

"When the draft register was published there would have been ads -- that is when we would do it.

"There was a mini-campaign around that time last year, in November. We will not do it to the same extent this year." He admitted the decision had been taken for budgeting reasons. Applications for entry in a supplement to the register must be received by a local authority 14 days -- excluding Sundays and public holidays -- in advance of polling.

If Taoiseach Brian Cowen picks February 25 as election day, the closing date will be February 9.

The Register of Electors for 2011/12 will be published on February 1 and will come into force on February 15.