Thursday 23 May 2019

Great little country that's gone to the dogs

Plastic litter is a blight on the Irish landscape
Plastic litter is a blight on the Irish landscape

John Masterson

We are a disgustingly filthy little country. And not a lot is done about our littering. I have no faith in fines as they are rarely collected. Or in the laws as they are seldom enforced. Personally, I am in favour of naming and shaming for a first offence. And a few hours in the stocks for those who didn't learn the lesson first time around.

I live deep in the countryside outside Kilkenny, a city that is proud of being a fine place to live and a superb tourist destination. I am surrounded by fields with crops growing, animals grazing and beautiful views in every direction. Down the road from me there is an attractive fountain, a folly, once used to water cattle. It was beautifully restored some years back by a neighbour whose fine stone work is seen all around the area. I often see tourists stop to take photos. It is a destination used for treasure hunts and geocachers. This was the location chosen by some lout last week to dump two large black bags of domestic rubbish that had been spread all over the place, probably by a cat of a fox, by the time I saw it. It was left to the locals to clear up this mess.

The louts are lazy as they won't even recycle the cans and bottles than can be disposed of free in any supermarket car park. Judging by the packaging, they are not short of money. But they wouldn't spend the few euro going to the dump. And they have a car as you could not leave the bags where they left them without one. But they are not stupid. They make sure there is nothing to identify them and no CCTV.

The hedgerows of Irish roads are littered with soft drink bottles and coffee cups. We must have the cleanest cars in the world. For amusement I played a game in the car with a friend to try to travel 100 metres without seeing litter. Try it. It is shocking. How can we stop drivers throwing out bottles and cups?

Go for a walk around any Irish town or beauty spot. Forget the view. You have to keep your eyes down because the chances of standing in dog dirt are extremely high. Responsible dog owners who carry plastic bags are a rarity. And then there is the new breed who carefully scoop and bag the poo, only to hang the bag on a gatepost or branch of a tree for someone else to dispose of. Thank you very much.

The streets are the place of choice for disposal of chewing gum and cigarette butts. I watch the cleaners in Kilkenny go up and down the pavements non-stop to protect our tourists, and civilised locals, from the disgraceful behaviour of a significant minority of our people.

I have the good fortune to travel a lot. I cannot think of a country that is as filthy as ours. I applaud the great work of the Tidy Towns and groups like Irish Business Against Litter. I applaud all our civic-minded people who are constantly picking up and cleaning up after the louts. I long for the day when DNA tests on dog dirt lead directly to the owners, as happens in other countries.

As to the black bag brigade, despite my passive nature I would like some horse-whipping thrown in but there is probably some ridiculous health and safety rule against it. And that would be enforced, unlike our litter laws.

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