Deputy mayor attacks anti-litter group over blackspot survey

A COUNCILLOR who represents a community labelled one of the country’s worst litter blackspots has launched a blistering attack on an anti-litter group.

Cork’s deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald (FF) said Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) had “no mandate to destroy a community” based on a single survey.

Earlier this month, Knocknaheeny, on the north side of Cork City, along with Dublin’s north inner city were branded litter blackspots in the final of IBAL’s overall 2011 survey.

Now, the Knocknaheeny-based community worker plans to write to Environment Minister Phil Hogan, questioning the methodology used to compile IBAL’s litter league table. Knocknaheeny was second from the bottom of 53 Irish towns and cities surveyed by An Taisce, on behalf of IBAL.

Judges described the residential areas of Knocknaheeny as being “in a terrible state”, while the area had deteriorated since the last survey.

Mr Fitzgerald defended his community at this week’s city council meeting.

“This survey has had a devastating effect on Knocknaheeny.

“For decades, we have strived to portray a positive image of this community.

“We take 10 steps forward and then get knocked 40 steps back.”

He said the community was aware of isolated litter problem areas and was working to address them.

An environmental forum has been set up in the area and is working successfully with the city council to tackle litter hotspots, he said.

He also questioned the methodology used in the surveys, which see urban city areas compared with tourist towns such as Killarney.

“I will be writing to the Environment Minister questioning the methodology and calling on IBAL to consult with a community before, during and after these surveys,” he said.

City manager Tim Lucey said he shared some of Mr Fitzgerald’s concerns.

He described as “regrettable” IBAL’s comments that there was a need for local authority managers to up their game to support local communities in the fight against litter.

“I find those comments regrettable. I have found the community of Knocknaheeny, in particular, always willing to engage with us,” he said.

“We have a good relationship with the community in relation to clean-ups.”

However, Dr Tom Cavanagh, the IBAL chairman, stood over the survey.

“We are not trying to embarrass or do harm,” he said.

“I want the people of Knocknaheeny to live in clean environment. I want Knocknaheeny to be as clean as Douglas or Rochestown Road.

“And this is the only way it’s going to get better. There is no rose without a thorn. They will have to take a bit of punishment.

“But something is going to happen now. The city council is rattled by this survey and they’ll deal with the problem.”

He said Tallaght had been in a similar position some years ago but had adopted a new approach to tackling litter and had improved.

He also quoted the results of a Barnardos survey of people in Knocknaheeny which asked what they disliked about living in the area: “81% said litter. There were other issues too but litter topped the list. IBAL isn’t going away. We’re determined to get disadvantaged areas as clean as advantaged areas.”

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