BY JACKIE KEOGH
WEST Cork politicians publicly praised voluntary litter pickers at an awards ceremony in Clonakilty recently but followed it up with criticism of Cork County Council for not doing enough.
Eight awards were presented to community groups in villages throughout West Cork before a meeting of the Western Committee on July 15th.
In category B, cheques and certificates were presented to Glengarriff, which was named best improver; Ring took third; Drimoleague second; and Ahiohill was named the winner.
In category A, Kilmacsimon Quay was named best improver; Durrus was third; Drinagh second; and Kilmacsimon Quay was the winner.
Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF), the Western Committee chairman, noted that this year’s competition attracted 33 entries from West Cork villages, and 110 from the county.
Cllr Murphy told the volunteers: ‘The Council tries to give as much as it can in terms of financial support because work you do is hugely important to us.
‘Everywhere you go you see people out with litter pickers. What you are doing helps us in trying to stamp out dumping, but that is an uphill battle.’
Cllr Murphy said: ‘Civic responsibility needs to be brought to bear on this issue because it is people like you who are left trying to clear up the mess. If people disposed of their rubbish responsibly it would lessen the load on tidy towns groups.’
But it wasn’t just the tidy towns groups that the councillors referred to when the meeting started at 11am, they also complained about lack of local authority manpower and the futility of having civic amenity sites closed on a Monday – the day most tourists are leaving the area and have nowhere to dump their rubbish.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) complained that people are no longer being employed on community schemes and he said this has led to a decline in standards in most towns and villages.
But, according to Cllr Carroll, the biggest issue facing the Council is the lack of manpower directly employed by the local authority.
He reminded Council officials that he had previously complained about Skibbereen staff being asked to do contract work – such as the public realm works in Skibbereen and improvements to the Town Hall.
Cllr Carroll said that has left them little time or opportunity to do the jobs they should be doing. In the days of Skibbereen Town Council, he added, the town had a foreman and six or seven workers and ‘far greater work was done within the town.
‘Over the last 10 years,’ Cllr Carroll said, ‘people have left, retired, or passed away and they were not replaced.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) agreed: ‘There is a lack of Council workers on the ground. There was a moratorium on hiring staff for a number of years during the recession and that has left a lot of towns and villages looking to volunteers, such as tidy towns committee, to pick up the slack.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said Council engineers freely admit they don’t have the manpower to do certain jobs.
‘We need more workers on the ground,’ he said, ‘even our road signs are black with dirt. This is what tourists see and it does not leave a good impression.’
It was Cllr Collins who insisted that civic amenity sites should be open on Monday, because having Derryconnell and Castletownbere closed on that day is contributing to fly-tipping.