The Mall-one of Longford town’s busiest public walkways and amenity areas came under the spotlight of town councillors again this week amid fears of an apparant rise in dog fouling and deteriorating health and safety standards.
Much of those concerns, which had previously been aired at last month’s meeting of the urban local authority, arose for a second time, this time at recently held Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting.
Cllr Paul Connell, who was the first to speak on the subject, asked whether the council could explore the possibility of opening a designated area for dogs in a bid to cut down on indiscrimminate fouling.
But while that suggestion appeared to meet the approval of some, two other locally elected representatives, Cllrs Peggy Nolan and Tony Flaherty disagreed over the causes behind the crisis.
Cllr Nolan said it was her firm belief only a small section of individuals were to blame, stressing the Mall still provided a valuable public service to local residents.
“If you walk the Mall, it is as busy as O’Connell Street and yet it is only a small minority of people that are causing the problem,” she maintained.
“The vast majority of people walk their dogs on a lead, on paths and clean up after them. What I don’t want is for it to go out of this meeting that the Mall is not a user friendly place for dog owners.”
Taking time to weigh up the comments of his Fine Gael opposite number, Cllr Flaherty said the scale of the problem went far beyond a disorderly few.
“It’s a small minority obeying the rules Cllr Nolan,” he replied pointedly. “It’s a vast majority that are breaking them. We have been through this several times before. Between loose dogs and dogs fouling nothing is being done.”
Besides the difficulties facing some of the council’s outdoor staff, Cllr Flaherty said more significance needed to be placed on the dangers now posed to children.
“Last week when the weather was good the Mall was packed every day. Nobody seems to pay any heed to what we said at our meeting because it was going on every day down there. Fouling is bad, but the amount of dogs not on leashes is worse and they are not small dogs either. We saw an article only yesterday in Limerick where a child was ripped asunder by a dog. Are we going to have to wait until something like that happens in our own park before something is done?” he asked.
Town Clerk, Dan Rooney said that while fouling was not a matter for gardai, a summons had been issued to a dog owner just last week.
Supt Denis Shields confirmed this, suggesting a greater presence of traffic wardens and uniformed Town Council employees might help alleviate the situation.