3 January 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and New Year's break.
IBAL and the Local Environment
I am delighted to have the opportunity to be here today at the announcement of the 2017 Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) Litter League Results. My Department has been supporting IBAL's survey results for well over a decade but of course the results of IBAL's first Litter League survey were published 16 years ago.
We've certainly come a long way since 2002 when not a single town in the 26 counties was deemed clean.
I want to pay tribute to the entire team at IBAl for their tireless work over two decades. Your vision and drive has ensured the issue of litter has never been far from our collective conscience and I applaud and recognize your efforts to raise the bar so successfully since 1996 when you were established.
As business leaders you could see the social and economic effects that littering was already having on our tourism industry and in our communities and the potential for worse to come if the problem wasn't tackled.
The economy, our climate, the communications networks that link us together and support our jobs, enhance our quality of life and underline the viability of our communities are priorities for this Government.
They are connected, not stand alone responsibilities. They are part of a wider programme across Government, to pool our available resources as a people, in ways that will make a measurable difference for a sustainable environment and self-sufficient, connected communities.
My job is to provide the leadership through policies and initiatives that translate aspiration into action. Action is the most important word in the title of my Department.
IBAL is important in providing feedback on the success of anti-litter policies and measures.
Many of you here today are on the frontline in the battle against litter and your actions, passion and commitment are clearly evident in the overall results today. Thank you for enhancing our communities and our environment and leading by example every single day.
The survey shows that 80% of the towns assessed last year were classified as "Clean to European Norms", the highest level achieved since the Litter League began which is hugely significant.
Littering is a crime. It is doubly so because the scarce resources committed to combatting it are resources needed elsewhere. Those scarce resources are needed for other vitally important local authority services which people depend on.
However money alone cannot solve our litter problems. It requires behavioural change and personal responsibility.
The IBAl survey shows there has been a small decrease overall in cleanliness levels nationwide which is disappointing but this can provide the basis for all of us to do better.
Effective enforcement and providing suitable infrastructure are essential to solving our litter problem and my officials are working with local authorities day-in-day-out to achieve this.
Anti-illegal dumping crackdown
I am particularly concerned about fly-tipping. I have consistently described it as economic and environmental treason and because of this I took action last year and allocated more than €1.3 million to introduce a new anti-illegal dumping crackdown.
This crackdown, involving local authorities and national agencies, uses covert surveillance, smart technology and drone imagery to catch those responsible and secure convictions. This year the Scheme will run again and I repeat my call to local authorities and communities across the country to avail of it.
Environmental Awareness and Education
Of course, awareness and education are part of the solution. Last year I allocated €885,000 to provide funding to local authorities to conduct public awareness and education campaigns at a community level targeting litter, dog fouling and graffiti.
This allocation was an increase of 28% on the previous year and I will maintain this level of funding again this year because it has proven to be successful in changing behaviour.
The importance of local communities in keeping our towns and environment clean cannot be overstated. I was pleased to increase funding for the National Spring Clean last year and I will do so again this year.
Community groups will not be found wanting by me or my Department as the work of keeping our environment clean starts at grassroots level and through education in our schools.
IBAL overall Winner and good performances
So without further delay I would like to thank all of you here today for your energy and commitment in tackling our litter problems. The results of your hard work are reflected in the League results, so many congratulations to all the towns that have been highlighted.
Progress in urban areas, including a great result for Tallaght and the significantly improved ranking of Dublin's North inner City and Limerick City shows what can be achieved.
But now it gives me great pleasure to announce the overall winner of the title of Ireland's Cleanest Town - which is Ennis.
I congratulate the community and businesses of Ennis and Clare County Council for this wonderful achievement – and it's always good to see a winner from the Western half of the country.
I must also congratulate my own town of Roscommon, which has again been placed in the top three rankings along with Kildare.
The success achieved across the length and breadth of the country in the 2017 Litter League shows that, collectively, we are continuing to improve.
But it also shows that we cannot ever afford to be complacent. Ireland still has a significant issue with litter and it is important that we continue to work together to win the fight.