It’s beyond time we got tough on the litterbugs in our midst

Rubbish on beaches, dog fouling on footpaths... Trevor Laffan says the authorities must crackdown on offenders
It’s beyond time we got tough on the litterbugs in our midst

BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE: There have been reports of some Cork beaches being littered by young people in recent weeks

OUR household has had some benefit from the coronavirus. With all that time we had on our hands during the lockdown, the house was never so clean.

As soon as a piece of dust drifted towards the floor, there was a scramble for the hoover. It was like a Special Forces operation, swooping to repel the invader, with high fives all round when the threat had been eliminated.

Pharmaceutical laboratories weren’t as sanitised as our kitchen. Surgeons could have carried out heart transplants on our island unit. The cleaning was all down to boredom and anything that distracted us for a few minutes was welcome.

I decided to tackle the painting, even though I have no interest in DIY. I had no intention of going mad either, I just wanted to do enough to keep me occupied without wearing me out.

So, I dressed appropriately to look the part, gathered my gear and set about touching up the hallway.

That set off a chain reaction because as soon I finished one area, it embarrassed the space next to it. What had looked fine all along, suddenly looked grubby beside the freshly painted piece, so that had to be done too.

The ‘touch-up’ soon developed into a full-scale redecoration.

My wife has been going around the house like a tornado since the schools closed. She’s not like me. She likes to be busy and she has endless energy so as soon as she was finished indoors, she moved outside. She chopped bushes, pruned things, got rid of weeds and did other stuff that’s beyond my interest, but in fairness to her, the place looks great.

Most women I know appreciate a bunch of flowers or a piece of jewellery on special occasions but my wife is different. If you want to make her day, giver her a power washer, a pair of wellies and stand well back. She is at her happiest when she’s removing grime and she’ll stay at it until she has no feeling left in her fingers.

Most of us were doing the same thing, so many of our homes are probably spotless by now, and that got me thinking.

In normal times we have a national problem with littering and dog fouling. We’ve been banging on about it for years, but despite all the campaigns, signs, posters and threats of fines, it has continued unabated — but would it change in a post Covid-19 world?

I had hoped for an awakening during the lockdown because I reasoned that litter louts were hardly throwing rubbish on their own floors. They were unlikely to be discarding their cigarette butts in their own driveways or allowing their dogs to foul their own gardens or pathways. If they were, then it would be interesting to see how they survived when there was no-one around to clean up after them. Not too well, I reckon.

It would be great if litter bugs and irresponsible dog owners could see litter and dog fouling the way the rest of us see it, as a blight on the community. I won’t hold my breath though because the signs aren’t good.

There was a piece in The Echo recently about Fennell’s Bay, Myrtleville, and Church Bay ‘Men’s Pool’ which were were left in a state after being jammed with young people partying in the warm weather.

A local councillor complained that huge amounts of rubbish were left behind, including tents, foldable chairs, disposable barbecues, jumpers, and numerous empty bottles of vodka and whiskey. She complained they were leaving everything behind and using the beach as a toilet.

Unfortunately, that’s a common sight in other areas too.

Photographs of discarded waste appear constantly on social media with similar stories of woodlands, beaches and beauty spots being treated like landfill sites and toilets.

Young people are getting the blame for much for it and it has been suggested that parents have a role to play in preventing this kind of behaviour.

That’s true, of course, but if the parents themselves are the culprits, then they won’t be fit and proper role models for the youngsters.

On my regular walk in Cobh, there is a fenced off site where a terraced house was demolished. A metal barrier was erected to block access, but people have been throwing black bags of home refuse over the fence. Some bags burst open and disposable babies’ nappies were visible amongst the rubbish. I doubt those responsible were children.

It seems to me that dog fouling is also on the increase. That’s not surprising because too many dogs are roaming public areas unsupervised, free to leave their deposits wherever they like. Those irresponsible owners are not children either.

There are serious fines for dog fouling, but my local representatives have advised me it is unenforceable. That same response is echoed across the country, but it’s a lame excuse. Without enforcement, littering and dog fouling will continue.

Many years ago, I was driving to work in Mayfield and there was a car ahead of me. A carton of leftover chicken and chips was suddenly thrown out the passenger’s window and scattered all over the road. Soon after, another box of food and a drinks carton flew out the driver’s window.

They saw nothing wrong with what they had done and were annoyed with me for stopping them and delaying their journey. It took a little effort on my part to make out a report and issue summonses, but I prosecuted them for littering.

They both travelled from Limerick to Cork after taking a day off work, and the judge added to their inconvenience by fining them, which made it an expensive day out.

If our local authorities were more proactive in this area, we might make some headway.

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