Irish betting operator Paddy Power has once more waded neck-deep into controversy with an IRA-themed billboard promoting the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming marriage equality referendum.
On Monday, people in Dublin turned their heads as a flatbed truck bearing Paddy’s billboard drove through the streets. The billboard features two people – both apparently men – sharing a kiss while wearing suits, corsages and balaclavas. The image is accompanied by the Irish Republican Army slogan “Tiocfaidh Ar La,” which translates as ‘Our day will come.’
The campaign – which is also appearing in print and online – offers odds on whether the referendum will pass or fail. Paddy released a statement, typically laced with double entendres, saying the current action on its betting market “makes it look rosy in the garden for the YES camp but don’t be surprised if the NO vote comes from behind to give us all a surprise. In the words of Alex Ferguson, it’s squeaky bum time.”
Paddy is also offering odds on what will become Ireland’s “gayest constituency,” with Dublin’s Dún Laoghaire pegged as most likely to boast the highest ‘yes’ vote in the May 22 referendum.
Paddy insists that its “tongue in cheek” campaign – conceived by its new creative agency BMB – was “not motivated or designed to be insulting to anyone.” Nonetheless, the promo has drawn fire from multiple sides. Some have called it massively distasteful and insensitive to the plight of Ireland’s LGBT community – although Paddy has taken firm stances against homophobia in the past – while others have said it insults victims of the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland.
Paddy prides itself on its unparalleled ability to generate publicity for its betting offers, although its mischief-making tactics have frequently ruffled feathers. Its Oscar Pistorius trial prop bet was 2014’s most complained about advert according to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. More recently, Paddy apologized for a tweet that compared a Liverpool v. Newcastle football match with black men being beaten by US police.