Litter and sewage spoil Rush beach stroll

Looks like the poo will always be with us

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At play on the North Beach in Rush, Co Dublin. Just don’t mention the raw sewage being pumped straight out to sea nearby by Fingal Council

low swathe of diaphanous cloud is puffing across a clear denim-blue sky as down Kilbush Lane we go, Bella, my wiry black and white terrier mix, and I. We’re on our way to the North Beach in Rush, Co Dublin, for our early morning ramble.

There’s a north-easterly wind would cut through you, though, and an old salt who has stepped out from a galvanised shed for a roll-up, welding mask pushed to the top of his shaven knobbly head, remarks, “It’s a bit blowy.”

“Tis a bit,” I reply in kind.

Blowy? The fur on Bella’s black face is parted and her ears are flat against her head, making her look like a startled hawk from the front.

Reaching the sheltered cove, I unharness the straining dog. She yelps over to a straggle of unruffled seagulls who levitate just out of reach for a moment, and step softly down again to renew their desultory scavenge.

Bella skitters over the curves and contours of sand still damp from the sculpting sea, now ebbing far out and fitfully, which had draped the beach in fresh beaded seaweed garlands of variegated browns, reds and briny greens.

I love this constant kaleidoscopic reconfiguration that makes a beach at once familiar and wondrously renewed, the barnacles and shells Bella loves to paw at frantically only here till the resurgent waves reclaim them.

The water is still warm and shimmering in those wave-crimped ridges by the water’s edge as round to the harbour we go.

The creamy gleaming surf is swishing at the jagged ankles of the rocky reef that stretches out beyond the breakwater there and a couple of fishing boats are bobbing in the crook of the pier. Gorgeous.

The day may be bright but my mood is already darkening as we head over to the steps that lead up to the little park opposite the Harbour Bar. Several beer cans are strewn in the sand along with what’s left of an unfinished fast-food banquet.

I gather what I can and carry them up to the bin in the park.

This too has become part of our morning ramble.

Bella is in harness again as we set off up the village. The path is laced at regular intervals with dog poo of varying dimensions, and ranging from the still soggy and steaming to the crumbling dried-out remains of another day.

David Attenborough might enjoy plotting the origin of the faeces here or marvelling at how certain owners have managed to maintain an ancient way of life, whereby Rover and friends are left free to release the contents of their innards with unhindered abandon. The poo will always be with us, it seems.

To be fair, I am sure Sir David would be the first to bin the poo when he is back home in London.

Speaking of bodily excretions, I am thinking about the horrifying images on RTE’s Prime Time programme a while back of the human excrement that is still being pumped straight into the sea as raw sewage near the same Rush harbour where Bella and I have just been.

There was a man from Irish Water informing  viewers the excrement would continue to be piped out here for another two years until the long delayed €9 million project to upgrade the town’s sewerage system is completed. This pumping of raw sewage is in direct contravention of an EU directive. Has been for years.

I  am in danger of no longer being able to see the wood for detritus as I focus on the less savoury aspects of the place I live in, and my children are growing up in, and maybe ignoring the many good things going on in this seaside village I am still happy to call home.

I am trying to be more positive but as Bella and I continue on up the main street there’s more crisp packets, cigarette boxes and coffee cartons to pick up, or as much as I can fit in the one free hand and the other holding Bella’s lead. My hands are soon full and I have to pick and choose the last few pieces of street trash before I reach the next bin.

There is a local council employee who gathers litter in the town later on, but for now, it’s the morning after optimism, as playwright Tom Murphy had it. 

There is an amusing footnote to this as a friend told me of a woman she met who has often seen me binning rubbish strewn around the town park and asked my friend  what crime I had committed as my community service seemed to be going on for a long time. 

Am I some kind of King Canute ridiculously trying to hold back a tidal wave of junk, clutter and poop, or a bloke doing a small bit? The latter, of course.  But I just don’t get litter, or any defiling of our environment. Some things in life we have little control over, but throwing a beer can on the path, metres from a bin: that is a choice.  A bad choice.

I’m not auditioning for the tidy towns here but I am miffed that a bright gaggle of teenagers down by the pretty harbour and maybe even complaining about the old fogeys ruining the country don’t see any irony in tossing their crushed cans on to the sand of ages. Even if the old fogeys are pumping raw sewage into the deep blue briny near where they sometimes gather of an evening. And their fellow citizens, young and old, are figuratively (usually!) pooing on their own doorsteps.

What to do?

— Enda Sheppard

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