On Monday April 23rd 2007 it was reported in the Irish Independent that Minister of State, Pat the Cope Gallagher had mounted posters on poles on routes out of his Donegal South West constituency. It was also reported in the same newspaper that Gallagher had not checked whether he was in any breach of regulations.
I can confirm that Gallagher did know he was breaking the law because a number of days earlier he had erected similar posters in Dublin and was informed by a staff member of Dublin City Council that his actions were illegal.
After many telephone calls, emails, false trails and blank walls, I submitted an official complaint to Donegal County Council against Gallagher on the 23rd May.
After many telephone calls, emails, false trails and blank walls, I finally received a response to my complaint in the post today. I quote:
Dear Mr. Sheridan,
I refer to your letter of 23rd May 2007. Firstly let me apologise for the delay in replying. The Council is not aware of any signs erected by or on behalf of Mr. Gallagher as referred to in your letter. We did not receive any reports or complaints in respect of such signs. Therefore, the Council had no cause to carry out an investigation into the matter or to take any enforcement action against Mr. Gallagher. I trust this clarifies the matter.
The letter was signed by Liam McCarron, Director Water, Environment and Emergency.
“We did not receive any reports or complaints in respect of such signs”?
It’s possible, but highly unlikely, that the publicity surrounding Gallagher’s activities was completely missed by the entire staff and membership of Donegal County Council.
It is, however, an absolute certainty that the council did receive a complaint. The very letter that Mr. McCarron is replying to is an official letter of complaint from me of which the opening sentence is:
“Subsequent to several phone calls and on the advice of Donegal County Council staff I hereby submit this official complaint regarding a breach of the Litter Pollution Act, 1997.”
So, Mr. McCarron looked at my official letter of complaint against Gallagher, then sat down and wrote back to me saying that because Donegal County Council had received no complaint about Gallagher, it had no cause to investigate the matter.
The phrase ‘Alice in Wonderland’ keeps popping into my mind. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder, perhaps I live in Wonderland where the silly inhabitants labour under the amazing idea that litter laws are enacted to protect the environment and enforcement agencies are actually expected to er..enforce.