‘Dear dirty Dublin” was James Joyce’s blunt way of describing his native city. A century later the capital no longer quite matches or merits Joyce’s characterisation, save in one part of the city. Dublin’s north inner city area remains the country’s only significant litter black spot, according to the latest national survey.
Litter is not just a public health hazard. Litter-strewn streets are bad for tourism, bad for business, and bad for the environment. Litter also lowers the morale and self-esteem of those communities that allow it to proliferate. The antisocial behaviour of a few obliges others – State authorities and public-spirited and law-abiding citizens – to clear up their mess.
Undoubtedly, Irish towns and cities have become cleaner and tidier in recent years; in part through stricter enforcement of anti-litter laws, but mainly because of the increased sense of civic pride that many people have shown in their efforts to keep the country tidy.
For 16 years Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) has led a national drive against litter. Its annual survey of 42 cities and towns identifies both litter blackspots, and litter-free areas. That campaign, and others, has helped to raise standards, by measuring the efforts towns and cities have made to become litter free. Success is recognised and rewarded by the enhanced status that a high ranking in the national anti-litter ratings table provides. However, a low rating should serve as a spur and an incentive for communities in those areas to respond to the challenge of litter prevention. Dublin’s inner city has a bad litter problem, one that will require a concerted campaign to resolve.
That campaign should involve the local community, complemented by more vigorous law enforcement from the public authorities for littering offences. In a year in which Ireland, via the Gathering, has offered itself as an open house for visitors, further efforts are needed to ensure that they can, and do, enjoy a litter-free holiday experience.