Smiling back to happiness

The Times We Lived In – Published: February 8th 2002. Photograph by Frank Miller

 

These shiny happy people are members of what is a pretty rare species in Ireland, so you’ve probably never spotted one in the wild. And unless you live in Galway city or county – or Leitrim, Wexford or Naas town – you may not recognise the plumage. But the words emblazoned across their spanking new white van make it easy to identify these two cheerful specimens.

Our picture was taken when a pilot scheme for the local authority Community Warden Service was launched at the Customs House in Dublin all of 15 years ago, and it shows Wexford Community Wardens Michael Connick and Claire Rochford.

Remember 2002, when Ireland’s economy seemed to be on the up and up, and all sorts of plans were being rolled out to make this country a better place to live in? The idea was that community wardens would add another layer of policing in rural areas by helping to enforce local authority regulations.

It’s a pretty good idea, and our photo paints a delightful picture of the energy, good humour and sense of teamwork which, theoretically at least, makes a good community warden. Although if they had known exactly what was in store for them in their working lives, Claire and Michael might not have been quite so happy.

As far as I can gather from online newspaper reports, being a community warden involves a good deal of chasing around after illegal tree-fellers, fly-tippers, over-enthusiastic clampers, drunken jet-skiers, unlicensed dogs and individuals intent on dumping the bloody remains of eviscerated fish into the watercourses of this fair land.

Of course, it’s in the nature of policing – at whatever level – that most of it isn’t particularly enjoyable. And while the long moratorium on new jobs in the public sector meant that the appearance of community wardens all over Ireland has been more sporadic than spectacular, the concept does appear to be here to stay. So perhaps those warm Wexford smiles were, in fact, a sign of things to come.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, ‘The Times We Lived In’, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99

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