14 April 2019
By Elaine Murphy
Labour Local election Candidate Peter Horgan and Senator Kevin Humphreys have called on the Government to reintroduce the Community Graffiti Programme to combat the damage to private property by vandalism.
Graffiti is a real problem in communities right around Cork city and county,” said Mr Horgan
“There is a massive difference between the work of Mad About Cork does in their excellent street art and the mindless tagging of the table end of homes or walls in estates. We need to support both residents and small businesses in tackling such attacks on their property in a way that will ensure it doesn’t reoccur.”
Senator Humphreys said:
“The anti-graffiti programme that was in place previously funded the removal of graffiti in public spaces and places that could be seen from public spaces. It supported small business people in removing graffiti from their premises and distributed anti-graffiti kits. The reintroduction of this programme would be a recognition of the many volunteers who clean their own communities week in and week out. While there are many Tidy Towns committees that clean up their communities on a weekly basis, they cannot deal with criminal damage to householders’ property. It could be co-funded by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, with matching funding from local government. We need a programme because volunteers must be recognised. The financial hardship that householders are suffering when trying to remove graffiti must be acknowledged. People have pride in their homes but are waking up to find the gable end of their houses destroyed by criminal activity. The fact that there is no assistance available to them to remedy the situation is unacceptable.”
The call was brought up in the Seanad earlier this month by Senator Humphreys and responded to by Minister of State Paul Kehoe.
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe):
“The community graffiti reduction programme was introduced in February 2008 and was sponsored at that time by the then Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Pobal managed and delivered the programme on behalf of these Departments and a total of approximately €1 million was spent under the first phase of the scheme. Due to the declining state of public finances at the time, the programme was formally brought to an end in the middle of 2009. The programme was separate from, and in addition to, graffiti abatement programmes carried out on an ongoing basis by the local authorities.
Peter Horgan said “the Senator will no doubt be aware, and as the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has previously advised the Oireachtas, primary responsibility for management and enforcement responses to litter pollution, including the defacement of structures by writing or other marks, lies with local authorities under the Litter Pollution Act 1997. The Act provides significant powers to local authorities to deal with these issues, including on-the-spot fines. It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the most appropriate public awareness, enforcement and clean-up actions to deal with graffiti, taking account of local circumstances and competing priorities.”
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment operates an anti-litter and anti-graffiti awareness grant scheme. Under this scheme, local authorities can apply for funding for projects aimed at raising awareness of litter and graffiti issues. Local authorities are asked to focus their activities under the scheme on young people and, in particular, on schools and community groups with an emphasis on encouraging long-term behavioural change.
In terms of the justice sector generally, An Garda Síochána has advised that it tasks local community policing units with compiling information which might identify individuals associated with various graffiti incidents. The Criminal Damage Act 1991 is the legal framework utilised by An Garda Síochána to police anti-social behaviour of this nature and alleged offenders are processed in accordance with the provisions of this legislation. The Probation Service, which falls under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, operates two graffiti removal projects as part of its community service scheme. One project is based in Dublin and the other is in Cork. The Probation Service does not have a dedicated graffiti project budget.
While the Minister for Justice and Equality is supportive of any measures to remove graffiti from our local areas, he regrets to advise the House that his Department has no plans to reintroduce the community graffiti reduction programme. The issue is not a primary function of the Department and while the public finances are clearly in a better position than ten years ago, there are other competing pressing demands on the resources available for allocation by the Department.
I encourage the Senator to approach the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to see if his Department would provide additional funding for a pilot scheme under the aforementioned anti-graffiti awareness grant scheme administered by the local authorities.
Mr Horgan dismisses the Minister’s response as a can-kicking exercise.
“It was almost as if he wasn’t a member of the Government in his answer to my colleague Senator Humphreys” said Mr Horgan.
“We need to think laterally as a country in tackling issues in our communities. Shrugging the shoulders is not an acceptable answer anymore to the Cork public.”