Where's our civic pride gone? Rubbish, we never had any
Our Catholic heritage may explain our laissez-faire attitude to social blight, writes Eamon Delaney
There is surely a grim irony in the fact that our rubbish had to be sent back from Northern Ireland. In other words, that part of the island, which is administered by the UK. The UK, after all, is where we used to send our emigrants, or our girls with unwanted pregnancies. It was where we sent our problems, and our rubbish seems to be a problem -- a big problem. Not just the litter on our streets, but in back lanes, or up in the mountains. Or down in Dublin South East, where John Gormley (and all the other local TDs) is resisting an incinerator.
But this national habit is not just Nimbyism. It is also the very opposite: it's 'rubbish in my back yard, and the main street, and I really just don't care'. It's doubly selfish. Too lazy to dispose of rubbish properly, we are also too mean to have someone take it away. So we dump it on the sly, including going North to do so. Except the North sent it back, and made us pay for doing so. Quite right too. For there is one thing quite different about the North, it looks better. It is cleaner, it works properly and it is not blighted with litter, junkies and beggars. This is despite, or even because, they came through a war. If they're going to bomb the police station, we may as well make sure to have clean clean roads and hanging baskets.
I recently had the pleasure of going back and forth over the Border, specifically from Monaghan to Armagh, and at times the journey was like going from Botswana to Sweden. The contrast between the bus stations in the two towns, for example, could not be more striking. In Monaghan, the station looks unchanged from the Seventies. I could barely get a civil answer to a query about bus times, and there was no soap dispenser in the toilet. Tourists hung about looking bewildered. But, by contrast, Armagh bus station was efficient, and clean. There was a proper seating area and an electronic notice board giving bus times.