DUBLIN City Council has been criticised for passing up on hundreds of thousands of euro in potential advertising revenue from a company it allows to hang posters on public property around the capital.
The local authority has had a longstanding agreement with Irish Poster Advertising Ltd (IPA) – an events promotion company – which advertises gigs and other events on hoardings and in public spaces.
In response to a recent query, council officials said they did not receive any fees from the company in exchange for advertising space but that in return, IPA takes responsibility for maintaining the hoardings.
The claim was denied by IPA, which insisted it has always paid a "rate" for the privilege but was unable to elaborate on the arrangement.
Both parties were due to meet last week in order to clarify matters.
The iconic billboards, or 'public information panels', which promote concerts and other events, first appeared on hoardings all over Dublin during the 1980s and have since become a hallmark of the inner city.
Clients pay varying fees to IPA depending on how well-known they are – small bands pay between just €5 and €10 per poster.
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said he was moved to enquire about the arrangement when he noticed no obvious revenue stream from the company.
"I was shocked, absolutely shocked. The idea that you would be given [the space] because you can maintain the hoarding is completely unbelievable," he said.
"I know advertising revenue is down in the city but there is always a market for it and people will always pay for it. These sites are all over the city."
Flynn is to demand clarity on the nature and extent of the arrangement and further details as to "how much the potential revenue stream is".
The company has dismissed the claim, saying it paid "rates" set by council officials.
However, it was unable to clarify the level of these rates and its stance was contradicted by the council's own claim that no revenue is sourced from the posters.
IPA owner Pat Egan said his company was not in the same league as larger commercial advertising operators; that it paid for the hoarding space and that it kept the city free of illegal posters as much as possible.
He said he could not explain why officials claimed no revenue came from the adverts but added: "We have found in dealing with the council over 20 years that one department is not aware of what is going on in the next.
"Someone in there is not fully up to date and I am not surprised.
"When this deal was done, Dublin was awash with all kinds of illegal posters and we said we would do a clean-up and over the years that has developed so that there are very few illegal posters."
However, while insisting that rates were set and collected by the local authority, Egan said he was unable to be specific.
"I can't tell you exactly and I am not avoiding the question. That is a discussion we are having; the [council] will decide what the rate is."