AS polling day looms in the local elections, the gloves have come off with accusations flying around Limerick of “dirty tricks”.
The Limerick Leader has received a number of reports of posters being ripped down across City North, in a move described as “sinister” by a Fine Gael councillor and an “attack on democracy” by a Labour member.
Meanwhile, an Independent candidate is furious with a Fianna Fail rival in City East for declaring her to be a representative os Fine Gael, in what she believes is an attempt to “damage” her election chances.
Placards have, in the last few days, been torn down at various locations across the northside, and replaced with rival candidates posters, with Cllrs Gerry McLoughlin, Tom Shortt, Maurice Quinlivan, Michael Hourigan, Denis McCarthy, and Labour candidate Frankie Daly all claiming to have been affected.
A number of people have pointed the finger at Independent councillor McLoughlin – with retiring member Kevin Kiely saying: “I have seen Gerry McLoughlin, and his brothers take other people’s posters down, and put up their own posters instead. I think it’s deplorable.”
Another councillor – who did not wish to be identified – added: “He has been pulling down my posters: he has been loosening the tie-wraps at the tops and replacing them with mine. I have seen it.”
But Cllr McLoughlin has described the accusation as “completely and utterly false”, and claimed that his own posters have been targeted, particularly around the Thomond Park area. “I’m a sportsman. I play the game fair, I play the game hard. I have never been sent off in my life. It is the first time my integrity has been questioned, and it is hurtful,” he said. “People are grasping at straws, people are panicking. People are concerned they will not get as many votes, and want to take as much advantage as possible.”
A spokesperson for Labour candidate Mr Daly said one of the reasons they placed election posters on the River Shannon was because he realised his posters were being stolen.
“In a democracy, people should leave things to be done fairly. There should not be any dirty tricks,” the spokesman claimed.
He also responded to comments left on www.limerickleader.ie about Mr Daly’s placement of an election poster on the river.
He said the barrels were donated from a “friendly publican”, the raft was built by a qualified carpenter, and it was anchored by a professional boatman in a position which is safe.”
Cllr Shortt is furious special posters he designed himself, employing local artists have gone missing.
“Three of them have just disappeared - two of them last night,” he said this Wednesday, “It is the lack of respect for the whole process which gets me. It is an attack on the democratic process, it is an attack on free speech, and it is bloody minded.”
Cllr Hourigan has also reported his posters going missing, as has Cllr McCarthy, who said: “It is very disappointing, and I feel there is something sinister going on”.
All Cllr Quinlivan would say is: “It is a sad thing that some candidates would tamper wit other people’s posters.”
Meanwhile, in City East, Independent candidate Sarah-Jane Hennelly is furious with Fianna Fail’s Jerry O’Dea for submitting literature which states that she is running for Fine Gael.
“It is just old school tactics which Fianna Fail like to engage in. The one thing people really like is that I am not with a party. I feel this has been done to damage me. I am an Independent, I do not have any political connections. I know any opponent of mine would be well aware of who is running against them, where they stand, what they stand for, and where they live,” she said.
Although Ms Hennelly sought an apology from Mr O’Dea personally, she received a call from the Fianna Fail head office instead.
Mr O’Dea was not available for comment as the Limerick Leader went to press.
His running mate Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon has admitted he has had to reuse some election posters from five years ago to cut costs.
At that time, Fianna Fail were at rock-bottom in terms of popularity, and as a result, their logo was well hidden. After some of these posters re-emerged this week outside in the Dublin Road area, Cllr O’Hanlon said: “I could not afford to get any more posters done, so I had to get some from the last election. Posters cost near to €10. I would have spent €1,000 on posters, and Fianna Fail supplied the same amount.”