The Your Country, Your Call saga continues. The Irish Times has reported that Martin McAleese, the “initiator” of the competition, has said that Government funding is no longer needed. I have written about this strange competition a number of times (1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4) but Simon McGarr posted an update yesterday which puts the latest news in context. He concludes by reference to the initial request for funding:
[T]he serving President’s husband contact[ed] the Taoiseach of the day about paying public money to a private company whose activities he was promoting.
Even I stopped for a moment when I read that.
This is the core of the issue with YCYC. It was run by a private company set up by a range of corporate enterprises, many of whom could benefit from the development of the winning proposals. To the public, however, it was presented as a quasi-official, State undertaking.
The “AIB/Cisco Ideas Campaign” would be just another prize giveaway with a winning slogan rather longer than the traditional 10 words. YCYC, on the other hand, was infused with official symbols.
The logos and names of its corporate organisers were given far less prominence than is usually the case, while the President and her husband were thrust to the forefront of the initiative. It was presented as a national competition with Government backing (which has now evaporated) and which displayed, at the heart of its logo, the national symbol.
As an aside: it was for that reason that one of my freedom of information requests was for information on any requested made by YCYC for authority to use an emblem resembling one registered by the State under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention. I also sought information of whether the Government considered whether such authority was required.
I got no information under this category, which suggests that the issue was never raised.
It all boils down to one fact: the State brand was used to promote a private enterprise which appears to have quite a pot of cash behind it. And it’s incredibly easy to gain access to that brand, once you go about it the right way.