NEWCASTLE West has been axed from the IBAL anti-litter league after cutbacks by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
For the last three years, inspectors from Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group, part-funded by government, have been visiting Limerick’s county town to grade its streets on their cleanliness.
In this time, Newcastle West has outranked Limerick City in the An Taisce-backed poll, being considered ‘Clean to European Norms’, with praise for its well kept streets and shopping areas in particular.
But after Mr Hogan refused to sanction a payment of €2,000 to its inspection team, Newcastle West has been removed - leaving Limerick City as the only representation among 42 towns and cities across Ireland.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, IBAL chairman Dr Tom Cavanagh said this represents a false economy.
“It is a little a little ridiculous to tell you the truth. The average town would spend over €1m cleaning, and it costs just €2,000 for us to see if the job is done right. It is typical of governments to hand out the money, but never go back to see if they are getting value for it.”
Fianna Fail’s Newcastle West-based councillor Michael Collins had mixed feelings on this: “The good news is we are not being policed anymore. But the downside to that is we are not being kept on our toes to make sure we are keeping our area clean. There is a real appetite for local people to keep the place clean.”
Asked why he thinks the cutback has happened, Cllr Collins said: “Hopefully it means we are keeping clean, and we don’t need policing!”.
However, he expressed regret at the loss of a mechanical street sweeper to West Limerick, meaning Newcastle West and its surrounding villages only get cleaned every two months.
This has meant community groups have been forced to fill the void left by enforced council cutbacks.
The former chairman of the Newcastle West community council Seamus Hunt described the axing of his town from the league as “a backward step.”
“Even to get a report on litter is encouraging for those trying to keep the place clean. It highlights to the public the actual status of the cleanliness. It is regrettable they have taken this step,” he told the Limerick Leader.