Wexford candidate who uses handmade posters urges Green Party to ‘try harder’

A Wexford councillor who only uses handmade posters has encouraged other election candidates to “try something different” in appealing to voters.

Leonard Kelly said he uses them to be more mindful of people’s “limited bandwidth”, and urged Green Party candidates using plastic posters to “try harder”.

He used just seven posters, handmade by his wife Jeanette, during the 2019 local election, in which the independent politician was elected to Wexford County Council for the first time.

European and local elections
Leonard Kelly with one of his posters (Leonard Kelly/PA)

Science teacher Jeanette’s designs are much more colourful and quirky than the familiar election poster template.

One pop-art piece encourages voters to give Mr Kelly their first preference vote, and adds “then go have pizza!” underneath a painting of a gooey slice.

Another large poster, mounted on two pieces of wood, is a multi-coloured paint drip design with a stencil of a stylised version of Mr Kelly’s face – an outline of a man with a beard and glasses.

He said the posters became “a talking point” whether people liked them or didn’t, and he became more recognisable.

“Not everyone liked them, but it was generally positive feedback about them to say ‘fair dues for trying something different’, for involving my family, there’s the upcycling element to it too,” Mr Kelly said.

“The classical style of the headshot with some sort of a slogan underneath just becomes background noise. People don’t even really engage with it and it’s actually quite annoying to a lot of people,” he said, citing people with sensory issues who can find it “quite overwhelming”.

Mr Kelly, who is working in employment guidance for a local development company in Wexford, said “it wasn’t the posters that got me elected” but said it proved that unlimited resources are not necessary.

“The quota was 1,300. I think I got 11,000 first preferences and was the third councillor to get in,” he said of the 2019 result.

He said he does not understand why Green Party candidates use plastic posters and imagines “we’d all be horrified” to find out how many tons of plastic waste have been produced for local and European elections posters in 2024.

“To see Green Party candidates having plastic posters, for me, just doesn’t make sense,” he told the PA news agency.

“That’s the party who wants us to change the way we run our society – and I would be sympathetic to an awful lot of ‘global green’ messages – but if the can’t even be brave enough to try something different and say ‘we’re never going to use plastic posters’? Come on, try harder.”

Asked if he had a message for other candidates who are tempted to try something different, he said: “Go for it. Don’t do it the way that they’ve seen it being done forever.

“Talk to those around them, talk to people within their peer group and go ‘What do you think?’

“Try something different. Engage with the process, but then try to change it. Be that little bit subversive if you need to, but in the positive sense.

“You have to stand out, people’s attention spans are shrinking, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that anybody who wants to engage with political process – it is hard work. You do need to actually put in the legwork.

“You can’t just have fancy posters, you can’t just have an interesting marketing campaign. You also need to do the work.”

The Green Party said in a statement that it has “long advocated” for better regulation for election posters and has a bill in the Seanad to reduce the use of posters.

It said: “We use less posters than other parties and our aim is not to have a poster on every pole.

“Our candidates also often re-use election posters and many candidates are re-using their posters from 2019.

“Evidence suggests that posters are helpful in raising public awareness of the candidates in elections and increasing voter turnout. They are an important feature of Irish democracy and if the Green Party were the only party to refuse to use posters while others continued to use them, this would hurt us without helping the environment.

“Election posters must be weather resistant as they will be exposed for weeks to wind and rain. This is why we use plastic posters. We previously experimented with alternative materials, but unfortunately these were not weather resistant.”

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