I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Graffiti is a real problem in cities and towns all over the country. One cannot travel through cities like Dublin, Cork or Galway without seeing the impact of graffiti on the public space. I am calling on the Minister for Justice and Equality to consider reintroducing the anti-graffiti programme that was in place up until 2009. Many people refer to graffiti as a mere irritant but I prefer to refer to it as vandalism or criminal damage.
I met an elderly gentleman last Saturday who was trying to clean the gable end of his house for the third time in three months, at great expense. This gentleman is a pensioner in his early eighties. He explained that he could no longer climb a ladder to remove the graffiti and that no assistance was available to him. The anti-graffiti programme that was in place previously funded the removal of graffiti in public spaces and places that could be seen from public spaces. It supported small business people in removing graffiti from their premises and distributed anti-graffiti kits. The reintroduction of this programme would be a recognition of the many volunteers who clean their own communities week in and week out. While there are many Tidy Towns committees that clean up their communities on a weekly basis, they cannot deal with criminal damage to householders' property. I ask that the Government would consider reintroducing the programme which could be funded in various ways. It could be co-funded by the Departments of Justice and Equality and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, with matching funding from local government. We need a programme because volunteers must be recognised. The financial hardship that householders are suffering when trying to remove graffiti must be acknowledged. People have pride in their homes but are waking up to find the gable end of their houses destroyed by criminal activity. The fact that there is no assistance available to them to remedy the situation is unacceptable.
The Minister of State may have been provided with a stock answer by the Department but I ask him to consider the matter and discuss it with his colleagues and the Department. I ask that some mechanism be provided to assist communities in dealing with the scourge of graffiti which mainly affects urban areas.