Taoiseach says regulating posters could become a "restriction on democracy"

It came amid calls in the Dáil for regulation on election and referendum ads

Taoiseach says regulating posters could become a "restriction on democracy"

Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Regulating referendum posters could become a 'restriction on democracy' and freedom of speech, according to the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar was answering questions in the Dáil after graphic posters were erected in Minister Simon Harris' constituency yesterday.

Concerns have also been raised in the Dáil about claims featured on some posters and ads, with Independent Deputy Thomas Pringle arguing that regulation is needed to combat 'outright lies, myths or emotive untruths' in election ads.

Mr Varadkar said some posters around the country make "extraordinarily inaccurate" claims, while others are "quite grotesque".

However, the Taoiseach says putting some restrictions on posters might be well-intentioned but could have deeper consequences.

He observed: "It's not been the case in Ireland that we've ever regulated people's posters.

"If you're going to regulate people's posters, you may also argue in favour of regulating literature - because the same kind of images that appear on posters can also be put on literature through doors."

He added: "It's something that I think we need to give some consideration to, perhaps on an all-party basis.

"But it would be a big move, I think, to get into a position whereby we'd any authority  - or even an electoral commission, when its established, or a referendum commission - deciding what sort of posters are allowed and what sort of literature is allowed and what isn't."

He has also welcomed restrictions on advertising in the upcoming referendum that have been announced by Facebook and Google this week.

'I will debate'

Meanwhile, Minister Harris has hit out at claims that he is unwilling to take part in a debate on the subject of abortion.

Campaigners for a No vote have accused the minister of hiding from a real debate on the issue.

Simon Harris said he was busy dealing with the Cervical Check scandal and talking to the families affected when the No campaign made their claims.

He observed: "There was a photoshoot outside Leinster House with a podium with my name on it asking where I was. I think it was very evident to pretty much every citizen in this country where I was in relation to that.

"I will debate. This has become, I suppose, a kind of straw man argument - debates will be decided not by the No campaign or the Yes campaign, certainly not by you or I... but by broadcasters."