By Michael Godfrey
THE late Jim Townsend from Ballybar was a great community activist and a staunch supporter of volunteerism. I didn’t agree with some of Jim’s beliefs, but on volunteerism he found a kindred spirit. The only difference between myself and Jim in that regard was that he did the work; I just wrote about it.
Unfortunately, the electorate in Carlow didn’t always see the value in what Jim was talking about – because he didn’t believe in dressing it up. Another problem was that a lot of the people he worked tirelessly for didn’t bother to even cast a vote at election time, much less support the man who was working on their behalf.
I was driving around last week and couldn’t but be impressed by the number of people who were cleaning up rubbish along the byways of the county, acting on an initiative from the GAA calling on people to clean up their areas. The GAA is a wonderful organisation, but like so many organisations it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Yes, we complain about all the money they take in from inter-county games and the All-Irelands, but how little they give back in return.
In reality, all of the work is carried out by people on the ground, the same as with members of various Tidy Towns committees, soccer clubs and rugby clubs, members of St Vincent de Paul, meals on wheels … you name it. There is never a shortage of volunteers willing to give up their time to improve the lot of others.
In relation to the clean-up that appears to be taking place around the county, I must name four people in particular who were ahead of the rest – Cora O’Reilly, Evelyn and Caroline Farrell and David Donegan – because they are the people who did all the heavy lifting during the clean-up at Clonmelsh, which I highlighted last week.
Yes, the local authority was involved, in that the environmental officer provided rubbish bags and pickers and organised for the removal of the rubbish that was collected, but it was these four locals who, as I said, did all the heavy lifting. And there was plenty of that. They filled over 50 refuse sacks, as well as gathering up old television sets, washing machines and other electrical goods before they were finished.
They just got to the stage where they were sick of looking at the rubbish piling up and decided to do something about it themselves. No-one asked them; there was no payment, just good volunteerism.
As I said, the Irish in general are fantastic at donating money to a good cause. We see it every Christmas, when millions of euros are collected for this or that organisation so the less-well-off can have some enjoyment over the festive period.
Every summer, we see all the hard work of Tidy Towns committees up and down the country, but that is just the end of a long, hard slog by a small number of people who, in all kinds of weather, go out to clean up after the rest of us have indiscriminately dumped our rubbish, be it a cigarette butt or a black bag full of rubbish.
But after only one week, it must be soul-destroying for Cora O’Reilly and her colleagues to see their back-breaking work at Clonmelsh being undone. By that I mean someone deliberately throwing a bag full of rubbish into the ditch. Correction: the offender may have meant to throw the bag into the ditch, but their aim wasn’t too good and it only made it to the side of the road.
No doubt more will follow, as it appears people are too tight-fisted to spend a few euros to go to the landfill at Powerstown or over to O’Toole’s recycling centre, not to mention engaging the services of Ray Whelan.
That’s why the sooner the local authority gets real in prosecuting litter louts the better.