Ailin Quinlan: This behaviour wasn’t annoying ... it was downright disgusting

There's an issue with some motorhome users, and it's not a pretty one... so says Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Ailin Quinlan: This behaviour wasn’t annoying ... it was downright disgusting

Some people travelling around the country in motorhomes are not disposing of their human waste correctly. Picture: Stock

“God,” I said, “stop. I’m starting to feel sick.”

I was having a conversation with a guy who works for the council. He was telling me about something that is happening this summer in a Cork scenic spot that we both happened to know about. I won’t name it. But it is the Wild Atlantic Way and it boasts a diverse array of wonderful environmental attractions. It’s well off the beaten track, and it’s very, very popular with camper vans.

The thing of course, if this problem is happening in this place, then one would have to assume, it’s more than likely an issue of concern up and down the coast.

Any time I visit this spot, even in winter, there’s a motorhome or two parked there. I never thought too much about it to be honest, except to vaguely wonder how these people found out about the place. It’s that remote.

Many a time I have stopped to chat with the friendly happy people, sometimes foreign, often Irish, sitting outside their motorhomes on their deckchairs drinking their morning coffee and enjoying the spectacular views. Until I had the conversation.

See, the guy told me the local authority is having a bit of a problem with camper vans. It wasn’t about them blocking narrow country roads, which we all know they do. It wasn’t about them hogging loads of parking space, which again, is a particularly infuriating habit of theirs. This was different. 

This wasn’t just annoying or inconsiderate. This was downright disgusting.

What they were doing he said, was emptying the filthy contents of their portable toilets on the site.

“What? Into the water?” I asked, horrified. On the site itself, he told me. On the land. Where people walk. Where people from all over Ireland and the world go to admire the scenery, have a swim and go for enjoyable family hikes.

That’s the peculiar thing, I thought, mentally rewinding to the last time I had visited there, sometime in early June. I had noticed that the pretty little stream running through the place into the local sea-cove had appeared brown and very dirty-looking. So much so that I stopped paddling in it once I noticed and stepped out.

Oh my God. It’s now July so who knows how much unadulterated human waste has been dumped on that beautiful scenic site, how much of it is leaking into the surrounding waterways, how many people have inadvertently walked into it or paddled or swum in it...

We know that some camper van owners just dump their rubbish and drive off back to the city or town or wherever. We know that others enjoy a spell of so-called “wild” camping before stopping for a night at a camping park, where they then have the brass neck to dump their week’s rubbish. 

But if that isn’t bad enough, they’re emptying their portable toilets onto the very land that they visit for its heralded beauty.

This particular spot is extremely beautiful and very historic. It features an abundance of wildlife, animal and bird and not one but several different bodies of water and these people driving up the little road in their expensive motorhomes to spend the night, enjoy the tranquility, stare pensively at the starry night-sky, go on hikes and breathe in the views – and then empty however many days’ worth of their stinking bodily waste over it on the way out.

The guy believes that Ireland needs to offer a much better motorhome infrastructure; that as a country we need to provide more reasonably-priced overnight camping areas. He is far more expert in this area than I am.

However, I had a look at the websites of a few companies that rent out these things and I found that they can cost up to €270 or so per night in the high season. The point is, while they should do it and they are clearly able to afford it given the high cost of a camper van per night in high season, would such people be willing to pay a further €10, €15 or €20 a night to park and use the facilities and take the trouble to dispose of their sloshing toilet tanks properly? This may indeed be linked to lack of infrastructure but it is also about disrespect, attitude, mind-set and entitlement.

Ireland is variously described to tourists, both foreign and domestic, as wild, beautiful, emerald green and yes, full of heritage, culture and history. One of these motorhome sites explains that some of the “most charming parts” of this fabulous nation, are little places at the end of country lanes and in small towns or villages, which are easily accessed by a camper-van rental. All of which is true.

However, what I want to know is whether these motorhome rental companies, which are clearly making good money out of hiring out these vehicles, are aware that some of their clients may be dumping human waste on the scenic destinations they visit?

Failte Ireland dramatically extols the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way on its website providing maps and brochures and all sorts of information. The Wild Atlantic Way, it says, “is Ireland’s first defined touring route, stretching along the Atlantic coast from Donegal to West Cork” It continues: “It has become synonymous with spectacular landscapes, adventure activities and welcoming tourism operators — and has achieved impressive visibility within overseas tourist markets.”

Does Failte Ireland know that some of the camper-vans they send to locations along the Wild Atlantic Way such as, say, West Cork, are dumping tonnes of human s*** as they go because they’re too lazy and too mean to find a place to pay to dispose of it properly?

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