A large billboard with posters of Minister for the Environment Dick Roche has been removed from a site in Wicklow after questions were raised about its planning status. The posters, nearly 30 feet long and eight feet high, contained Mr Roche's photo alongside the slogan "Working for Wicklow".
Mr Roche blamed an "over-zealous" supporter for putting up the posters. They were removed yesterday from the hoarding just outside Rathnew.
It followed contact from Wicklow County Council's planning enforcement section to Mr Roche's office. However, yesterday, Mr Roche claimed he ordered the posters to be removed. He denied the hoarding breached planning regulations.
According to a spokesman for Mr Roche, the Minister was unaware of the posters, which were in a privately-owned field overlooking the main road into Wicklow town, until he was contacted by the media last Friday.
"An enthusiastic, over-zealous member of Minister Roche's campaign volunteer team put up a few posters," the spokesman said.
"When the Minister found out after getting a call from the media, he immediately instructed that a white covering be put on sites until the posters were taken down this morning."
"At no time did Minister Roche infringe the litter or planning Act, but he decided that they should be taken down. He notes other candidates in Wicklow have election hoardings up."
However, yesterday a spokeswoman for Wicklow County Council planning department said the council had been in contact with Mr Roche's office on Monday and had requested that the posters be removed.
Under the 2002 planning laws, advertising hoardings relating to a general election are exempt from planning legislation. However as an election has yet to be called, there is a question as to whether this exemption applies.
Mr Roche is the latest Dáil candidate to become embroiled in controversy over pre-election publicity. Dublin South West TD Charlie O'Connor was warned that 400 of his posters erected earlier this month on lampposts could breach littering legislation.
© 2007 The Irish Times
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