You’d wonder what other transgressions are committed by those who treat the ditches of County Waterford as a public dump and the streets of our city as an open sewer for their dogs. You’d wonder what’s the level of their contribution to the communities they live in. You’d wonder what bubble they must live in if they see nothing wrong whatsoever in loading up a car or a van with bags of domestic waste, driving out into the countryside to find a quiet lane and then literally rubbish the place. You’d wonder what impact their behaviour has on their children.
The habits of filthy Waterfordians are making a mockery of the hard work which neighbourhood groups, in addition to local authority staff, are committed to when it comes to keeping this city and county tidy.
And while the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) findings of recent times have reflected well on Waterford city, I’m relieved that those responsible for such gradings must have seen the Anne Street/Barker Street area during one of its tidier periods. In addition to the illegal car parking on Anne Street’s double yellow lines (a regular occurrence nowadays directly opposite the exit of the multi-storey car park on The Glen), its paths and road surface are now regularly coated with dog faeces.
On Friday morning last, a few of my work colleagues bypassed and later commented upon a ‘deposit’ of such volume, directly outside an apartment door on Anne Street that one had to disembark the path to avoid the output. By Saturday morning, it had been smeared across the width of the path. It’s by no means exclusively an inner city problem: ask anyone who regularly uses the Williamstown Road: it is sadly difficult to progress along any length of it without altering course to avoid dog waste.
And it’s a manoeuvre which any buggy pusher or wheelchair user along the route has to do a great deal more to avoid. All it would take to end this would be for us all to do the right thing. Imagine that?
The fouling of our footpaths and the desecration of our ditches is by no means a 21st Century phenomenon. While doing a bit of homework for entirely separate purposes last week, I came upon an edition of The Munster Express dated January 31st, 1975. That week’s front page headline read: ‘We Are A Dirty Country – Declares County Councillor’, noting the frustration of Tramore-based Councillor Tom Healy who added: “and we have derelict sites everywhere”.
With Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s adage springing to mind, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, this newspaper’s 44-year-old reporting could be re-filed for a contemporary chamber report by virtue of amending the then elected body’s membership with the current incumbents.
A special meeting of the County Council was held that month to consider a Department of Local Government report into the role local authorities could play in keeping their respective jurisdictions tidier.
Cllr Healy, the reporter states, said “that unless stringent legislation was introduced, the litter problem would never be solved”.
A colleague, Cllr P Crotty, “said Ireland was one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world but was also one of the dirtiest. People, he went on, threw litter and refuse ‘everywhere’ in a most disgraceful manner.”
Under the stark subheading – ‘Raped by Dumping’ – then Senator Austin Deasy referenced the failure of anti-litter drives “in most areas”, while advocating a Belgian-type penalty system, where a “person found guilty of dumping litter was liable to three months in jail”. The reporter noted that Senator Deasy described the Irish laws for similar offences as “pathetic”.
Ireland remains one of Europe’s most sparsely populated countries (only six of the EU’s still 28-strong membership have lower densities) and has clearly retained the vice of illegal dumping.
As someone who divvies up his time between the inner city, Portlaw, Butlerstown and Ballygunner on a regular basis, the widespread nature of illegal dumping represents a problem which predates rural isolation and depopulation, in addition to the closure of Garda Stations and post offices.
A half-mile or so, either side of the house I was reared in, ‘fresh’ (for want of a better word) black sacks full of all manner of waste were dumped before, during and after Christmas. One such pile featured some festive decorations – now desecrations – in a forested area just off the road between Portlaw and Clonea Power.
During a spin to a few littering ‘hot spots’ on Thursday last, I photographed a discarded couch, sheets of chipboard and partly breached black refuse sacks strewn in a ditch directly opposite the entrance to Kilcaragh Park in Ballygunner.
The roadside leading to the junction barely a half-mile beyond the nearby Gaelcholáiste had also been replenished with rubbish: the previous week, I saw locals out at an early hour in their hi-vis jackets, having filled four black sacks with discarded waste. Quite the way to spend your Christmas holidays. And ask anyone living between Dunhill and the ‘old’ Six Cross Roads about illegally dumped rubbish (or near the Saleens for that matter): they could write a book on the topic. Information campaigns won’t cease the rubbishing of Waterford. Selfish people, living in an age where it is easier to legally dispose waste than ever before, need to take their heads out of their posteriors and learn to appreciate what keeps air fresh.