One of Waterford city’s most recognisable faces has called on the powers that be to do more when it comes to enhancing the city’s appeal as a tourist destination.
Specifically, Jack Burtchaell of Waterford City Walking Tours has called for a crackdown on the consumption of alcohol in public places and the immediate removal of graffiti from city centre businesses.
“I get great help from people in the hotel business and tour business but I don’t get great help from everybody,” said Mr Burtchaell, who picked up a Munster Express/Dooley’s Hotel Heritage & Culture Award last week.
“At least four or five times a week, there’s a bus tour with me around the city whose whole experience of Ireland is destroyed by abusive, drunken, fighting, begging ‘winos’. They’re screaming and roaring at tourists, urinating on the streets and threatening them for money.”
He added: “Waterford is on a scale of difference from every other city in that respect in that we’re way worse than any of them. There’s a ‘brush it under the carpet’ mentality in Waterford where people pretend they don’t see it. Tourists see it. Tourists and agents that I deal with are absolutely terrorised by it.
“That’s what tourists bring away with them – fellas roaring in the street screaming abuse at them, having people exposing themselves to them. It’s happening all the time and there seems to be an unwillingness in Waterford to confront that. We’re at nothing as a tourist destination until we confront that.
“There’s a law about not drinking on the streets yet there’s some people drinking on the streets all day long every day and no one seems to be applying the law. And those who can do something about it don’t seem to realise that this sort of behaviour absolutely terrifies people.”
Waterford Garda Station were contacted for a comment in relation to their dealing with streetside drinking but no reply was forthcoming before we went to press.
Mr Burtchaell continued: “Another feature and sadly a new one which isn’t as vicious but is also a big problem is graffiti. Every single tour that I do, hundreds of them every year, every one of them remark about the graffiti around the city. Now I’m amazed that responsible businesses in the heart of Waterford have graffiti on their buildings and don’t remove it.
“For an American seeing graffiti, they immediately asked if this is a gang controlled area, is there a major drug or crime problem here because they don’t see graffiti at home except in those sort of areas. Now there are some businesses which deal with it immediately and get it cleaned up but others don’t and it’s left there for months.
“The City Council has graffiti on its building on Bailey’s New Street, despite me asking them to clean it and it’s been there for months.”
Waterford City Council has assigned two staff to tackle graffiti on a ‘first priority’ basis; incidentally, its Environment Office hasn’t received any report of graffiti at Bailey’s New Street.
“The method of removal varies according to the material that has been defaced and the type of ink used,” according to an Environment Office spokesperson.
“Once the graffiti has been removed, a protective coating, similar to a wax, is applied. This coating protects the surface, allowing further graffiti to simply be washed off.
“Graffiti removal can be time consuming. For example, it took five hours to remove graffiti from Flaggy Lane. Other areas that have been targeted to date include the playground in Railway Square, the William Vincent Wallace Plaza, the People’s Park and the Six Acre Park in Farronshoneen.”
Jack Burtchaell said streets free from barracking, urinating and graffiti were essential if Waterford is to secure and expand its tourism potential.
“A lot of people don’t see tourism as being everybody’s business,” he added. “But the tourist bus that comes into town puts money in virtually every other business’s pocket – be it food, financial services, fuel or bed linen. There’s an instant spin-off from tourism instantly into the wider economy.
“An awful lot of people say that tourism is just what Waterford Crystal did or what Dooley’s Hotel do: if we’re going to be successful, tourism is what we’ll all do.”
* If you see graffiti in a public place, please call the City Council at 051-849563