The decision to remove Galway’s clean city status has been branded unfair.
The latest Anti-Litter League survey by IBAL has been heavily criticised by the Galway Tidy Towns committee.
Chair of the Tidy Towns committee and Labour councillor for Galway City West, Níall McNelis, said he was very disappointed to see Galway be demoted in the survey, which was carried out by An Taisce.
“I think it’s very unfair the way the IBAL actually did their rating, and for them to say we were not a litter-free city,” said Cllr McNelis, who has been Chair of the city’s Tidy Towns committee for five years.
Galway City was described as “moderately littered” in the report and was ranked 24th out of 40 Irish towns and cities surveyed for cleanliness.
The report also said there were “some heavily littered sites”, which was the reason for the city’s demotion.
Cllr McNelis took issue with the way the survey was conducted and the way the report is categorised, with all towns and cities ranked in the one list regardless of size or population.
“The sheer size of the area that they’re covering for Galway City is from Oranmore to Barna, and then they put us in the same category as places like Naas,” said Cllr McNelis.
Naas was ranked first in the Anti-Litter League, and was described as being “cleaner than European norms”.
“Naas has a population of what, 20,000, when the population of Galway is 75,000, with all the visitors and the tourists that we have as well,” said Cllr McNelis.
Of the 25 locations around the city surveyed, 12 received an ‘A’ grade, with sites such as Bohermore Community Centre, the Dyke Road recycling facility, and the residential area of Carraig Bán singled out for praise in litter management and presentation.
Three locations were given a ‘D’ rating by IBAL, including the Tower House complex in Liosbán, and the shrubbery outside Holy Trinity National School in Mervue.
Food and alcohol-related waste, as well as face masks and cigarette butts were among the most common litter items noted in the report.
The Newcastle approach on the R864 outside University Hospital Galway also received a ‘D’ grade, with “many food-related items, but also larger items, e.g. black sack, duvet, pillow, blankets”.
Cllr McNelis said IBAL “didn’t address a lot of the issues it should have addressed, acknowledging that the pandemic is there and acknowledging the good work that’s been done in the first place”.
“Just weeks ago, we had got the Silver medal for the H category, which is for a population of over 30,000 people in the National Tidy Towns competition,” said Cllr McNelis.
“We have magicians that come in to Galway City every morning at five o’clock and clean up the mess that the public leave behind themselves,” he said.
“People have to make sure they realise that Galway is not a dirty city,” said Cllr McNelis.
Conor Horgan, spokesperson for IBAL, said the use of one chart to categorise all towns and cities “definitely works best”.
“We’ve been doing this for 20 years now for one reason, and that’s to clean up the country – there is no ulterior motive,” he said.
“The chart is a fair way to represent the cleanliness of towns,” said Mr Horgan.
He said that when there’s a negative result for a particular town or city, “too often, criticism is thrown our way”.
“They’d be better off looking at the report, looking at the bad sites and try to clean them up,” he said.
Cllr McNelis also criticised that neither IBAL nor An Taisce publicised the date the survey was carried out, but Mr Horgan said, “An Taisce are at the end of a line for local authorities whenever they want, if they want to ask when the survey was done.”
Mr Horgan also said that the survey is not carried out in a town or city on a day when there are “exceptional circumstances”, such as a concert, sports match or festival.
“There’s not really an expectation cities win the league, but it’s about what category they’re in,” said Mr Horgan.
“We’re not saying you should be top five, but you should be clean. The point is that Galway isn’t clean,” he said.
The next Anti-Litter League survey will be carried out during the first half of the year, and Mr Horgan said results will likely be published at the end of June.