During ‘Tree Week’ we especially appreciate that trees beautify any landscape, some varieties more so than others, and when in full leaf or blossom they really enhance an area. Over the years Keep Kilkenny Beautiful volunteers have planted dozens of such trees in several parts of the city and its environs. Kilkenny Borough Council have also planted many, particularly at St. John’s Quay alongside the river Nore near the ‘Sun Dial’.
Alas, ‘vandals’ under cover of darkness have on several occasions vandalised these trees. More than likely these scoundrels were under the influence of either drugs or alcohol when they committed this mindless act of anti-social behaviour. The more recent attack on these young trees at St. John’s Quay was even more mind-boggling as the trees appeared to have been cut with either a chainsaw or an electric saw. On February 27th the ‘scumbags’ struck again at the Peace Park, near John’s Quay, using an axe they chopped down a 18ft. high mature cherry blossom tree leaving the fallen tree across the park pathway. KKB officers Sean Leahy and Elaine Bradshaw were shattered on hearing the sad news the following day.
It was not someone intending to use them for firewood as the vandalised trees were left there. Kilkenny volunteers who give up their free time helping the KKB by planting such trees are understandably frustrated. During the past couple of years the KKB chairman has been very fortunate in obtaining trees donated by a civic-minded well-wisher who apparently prefers to remain anonymous. This anonymous gentleman also provides a mini digger when planting is taking place, which is a massive help to KKB members.
Some years ago before the mini-digger became available I was part of a small team of KKB volunteers who planted a few dozen trees using a pick and spade. It was no easy task and in my own case it took a long, hot soak in a bath before I could stand up straight again. One of my companions at planting the trees on that occasion was the late Patsy Ryan, who was a fantastic voluntary worker and very difficult to ‘keep into’ with a spade. On seeing those trees vandalised a few months later it was upsetting for everyone involved in the planting.
The question is ‘what happens now? Do we try and replace the trees so that a few brats can destroy them again?’. What a joy it would be if those delinquents were caught in the act and dealt severely with. Unfortunately, even if caught red-handed the well-meaning but naive ‘do-gooders’ may make excuses for them, such as ‘it was out of character’, ‘they came from a broken home’, ‘they are making a big effort to give up using drugs/alcohol’ etc. They will often leave the court with just a slap on the back of the hands or a warning. These thugs are laughing at society and personally I would not feel one bit of sympathy for them if some frustrated well-built citizen caught them in the act and ‘knocked the stuffing out of them’.
But I suppose we must keep within the law and hopefully the courts will find a way of dealing adequately with these criminals when (and if) apprehended. It is unfortunately a culture in Ireland ‘not to inform’ – but we must change that attitude, especially in the case of preventing vandalism. A ‘whistle blower’ who may see these thugs in action and report them immediately to the relevant authorities would be doing a praiseworthy job of work.
I suggested at a KKB committee meeting some time ago that we should offer a substantial reward from our own pockets ‘for information leading to a prosecution’, but for various reasons the suggestion did not capture the imagination of the ‘powers-that-be’ in the said organisation. Hopefully they might consider something like that strategy in the future, as I believe these low-life scouldrels would not hesitate to inform on their colleagues – if the reward was good enough!
Of course we will not stop planting trees around the city and allow the ‘vandals’ to win, but we must find a solution to the problem of vandalism as well. CCT cameras placed in hidden places might help? It’s definitely an on-going problem and it will probably remain so. But we must win the war against these thugs – and we will! – hopefully with the support of someone who may witness them in the act of vandalising and ‘point the finger at them’.
Many well meaning citizens might be reluctant to get involved for fear of reprisals, that’s understandable. However, our Gardai are very understanding and discreet in these matters and can be relied upon to keep a confidence. As the old saying goes ‘a wink can be as good as a nod’ but please don’t look the other way – it’s your city these ‘nasties’ are vandalising!!
Incidentally, speaking of trees and shrubs, a recent walk around the Newpark Fen was a pleasant eye-opener. Whoever is looking after this scenic spot deserves high praise indeed. It was superbly kept, grass margins neatly edged, tree branches cut back and pathways well swept.
Take a bow – whoever you are – well done!