Life buoy ropes being used to tie up horses; glass bottles being thrown into the river; and lifeguard huts being broken into and used as toilets – these are the types of anti-social behaviour taking place at Kilkenny’s waterways and endangering those who swim in them, according to Kilkenny County Council.
“There had been a few issues,” Carol McCarthy, of the council’s environment section, explained at a meeting of the council’s joint policing committee. “Some of those issues related to horses entering the water in swimming areas and being exercised there; and some of the ropes were taken off the life buoys to tie up horses and were just thrown back when they were done.”
Of groups drinking along the river and tossing glass bottles into the swimming areas, she said: “It is quite a hazard. The lifeguards have to walk onto the riverbed and pick up whatever they can.”
And the lifeguard huts, “even though they are locked, the locks are taken off and they are used as toilets.”
Cllr Marie Fitzpatrick (Lab) said a large part of the problem goes “back to the parents. They don’t know where their young people are or who they are with and what they are doing. They are reneging on their responsibility.”
And Cllr Maurice Shortall (Lab) suggested that roving cameras like the ones placed at bottle banks could be used to catch people engaged in such behaviour.
However, Chief Supt Mick McGarry said local gardaí had not received any complaints about this type of anti-social activity, and that if members of the public did not do their civic duty and report it, those acting in such a manner were unlikely to be caught.
“Nothing takes place in any area or society without somebody knowing what is going on,” he said.
Council chairman Paul Cuddihy (FG) pointed out that problem of people throwing glass bottles into the river was nothing new. He recalled cycling from primary school in 1971, jumping into the river to pull out bottles that had been thrown in, and cutting his foot as a result.
“This is going on as long as glass bottles are around,” he said, echoing the sentiment that members of the public should not turn a blind eye to such behaviour. “As a society we are not standing up to them as often as we should, and we need to,” Cllr Cuddihy said.
He went on to suggest that, with alcohol consumption involved in many instances of anti-social behaviour among younger people, a change in legislation could be needed. People are drinking as 15-year-olds when the legal drinking age is 18, he said, so perhaps the drinking age should be raised to 21 so that people would only start drinking at 18.
“We have a love affair with alcohol in this country and there is a huge cost, and it is a terrible pity,” Cllr Cuddihy said.