GRAFFITI vandalism was now “an epidemic” in Limerick city, Cllr Michael Hourigan has declared at a meeting of the City Council, saying it was “not good enough” that private property owners were expected to shell out hundreds of euro every time that a wall was defaced.
But Mayor Gerry McLoughlin appealed to councillors to be more “imaginative” in how it addressed such problems and examine how restorative justice programmes - where young offenders engage with their victims - work in the UK.
Cllr Hourigan cited one sports club which had spent €490 removing graffiti from a wall only for it to be targeted again and a similar bill incurred. “Are we to allow these people to destroy our city? It’s becoming an epidemic at this stage,” he said.
Cllr Joe Leddin said the boundary wall erected around Mary Immaculate College 12 months ago had been desecrated three times “to the extent where the plaster has started coming off because they have had to powerhose it so often”.
But the onus was on private property owners to remove graffiti, Cllr Leddin said.
He appealed to environment director Caroline Curley to write to one business on the Dock Road to remove graffiti from a wall along “one of the main arterial routes into the city”.
This shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, Cllr Leddin said, as the business in question sold paint.
Cllr Maria Byrne said residents in her area had taken the initiative to remove graffiti themselves and this had “discouraged them to a certain extent”.
Some funding was available from the City Council to buy solvents, she said.
More engagement with young people was needed, Cllr Tom Shortt said, urging the council to adopt the approach taken with skateboarders who were given a designated area at Steamboat Quay.
“While there are cases of total vandalism out there, there are also cases of young people seeking expression,” Cllr Shortt said, adding “investment in young people will come back to you”.
Mayor McLoughlin suggested sending a delegation to Hull to see how restorative justice works in the UK.
“If there’s a problem, we have to be visionary about in how we deal with it but that takes effort and imagination,” the mayor said.
Ms Curley said the council was working with the City Gallery of Art and Limerick School of Art and Design on providing another designated graffiti wall like one already in place at Athlunkard Street.
“But there are a number of people out there who will still graffiti property no matter how many walls are designated,” she admitted.
A small fund would be made available in the coming weeks under the Going for Gold programme specifically aimed at graffiti removal, Ms Curley added.