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Light It Up – Public & Council Fight Back

Writes Leo McMahon

Following public outrage over recent vandalism of new solar lamps along Carrigaline-Crosshaven Greenway, Cork County Council, in liaison with a contractor, hopes to install similar new lighting on a trial basis over a smaller section of the popular path. So stated senior executive officer Nicola Radley at Monday’s meeting of the council’s Carrigaline Municipal District.

Her announcement came after differing views were expressed by members as to whether the council should spend money on replacing the 88 wildlife-sensitive lamps on the greenway between Kilnagleary car park and Leary’s Cross, the photo-cells of which were vandalized in July. Damage amounted to over €4,500.

On the agenda was a motion from Cllr Audrey Buckley (FF), who said: ‘I would ask the council to consider reinstalling the solar lights. This walking, cycling and running area is so important to many people in the area. We cannot live by vigilante rules. The majority of the public want to see these reinstalled and go all the way to Crosshaven in the near future.’

She also enquired if closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras could be installed on the path.

Similarly, Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) had a motion that in view of the widespread public support for the project and to demonstrate its firm rejection of a single-handed act of vandalism, the council would reinstate the public lighting on the greenway.

The same suffering for a community at large, said Cllr D’Alton, applied when a litter bin was removed from a locality when one person abused it with domestic refuse. In that regard, she believed the public would be supportive of the council in giving the solar lighting another go and would send out a strong message to those who vandalized public property

Cllr Liam O’Connor (FG) said what happened was disgraceful criminal damage. From his experience, (he is chairperson of Carrigaline Tidy Towns), and noting that the person or persons responsible hadn’t been apprehended, he didn’t think that spending €6,000 or more again was justified for fear vandalism would reoccur. He suggested it be used on a different project on the path such as a bottle re-fill stations.

Cllr Ben Dalton-O’Sullivan (Ind) said what happened was a disgrace but his concern also was that it could happen again to a new set of lights and thereby amount to a waste of money. He suggested looking at CCTV, taking into account data protection issues, as done successfully for a similar project in Duleek, Co Meath with perhaps Carrigaline Garda Station or the council monitoring this.

Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) said he would support the motion but felt that such a specific act was likely to reoccur. What happened was disgusting but the council had to be realistic. He felt CCTV would need to be installed first.

Cathaoirleach Seamus McGrath (FF) however, agreed with Cllrs Buckley and D’Alton. It was an atrocious act and there was a huge public outcry but items such as playground equipment, trees and public lighting etc. got vandalized all the time and as a council replaced these and didn’t let the vandals win.

He suggested specific covert CCTV, as employed by the environment section to curb illegal dumping, be used as this would get the message out and act as a great deterrent. He agreed that using community CCTV was a much wider issue involving General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) etc.

Ms. Radley acknowledged the community response to what was something entirely regrettable. She pointed out that the budget wasn’t there for entire reinstatement this year but she had liaised with senior executive engineer Madeleine Healy whose office had selected the solar lights with the environment in mind, incorporating a ‘bat hat’ on each that had the approval of the Bat Conservation Trust.

She further stated that Ms. Healy had also liaised with the contractor and talking about installing lights on a trail basis in a smaller and different area so that the council could assess as to whether it should continue with this. It was felt that to proceed in a cautious fashion would be the right way at this stage.

This was welcomed by Cllrs Buckley, D’Alton and other members while Ms Healy acknowledged the help of the contractor.

As for CCTV, Ms Radley said there were GDPR considerations but the council, through its development committee, had engaged with a contractor to do a full assessment of all schemes in the county and would await recommendations.

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