Anyone who has seen The Birds, the 1963 horror-thriller film directed Alfred Hitchcock, will have some sympathy for the residents of Balbriggan, Howth, and Skerries in north Co Dublin, where an infestation of seagulls is making life miserable for locals.
While the gulls are not the dive-bombers depicted by Hitchcock, their proliferation has proven a scourge and locals say the threat to public health is not being taken seriously by the authorities.
Bacteria, fungal agents, and ectoparasites, found in gull droppings, can carry diseases, like salmonella and meningitis, but the birds are protected by national and EU law, which bans removal of nests.
The situation is particularly acute in Balbriggan, where permission has been given to allow the removal of nests and eggs from homes and businesses.
However, the derogation leaves it up to homeowners to remove nests. There is no responsibility on the local authority to do so. If, however, the situation was treated as a public health issue, local authorities would be obliged to act. Commonsense demands that they do so.