Sunday, May 06, 2007

May Eve In Limerick

blaze #1 on Lock Quay

Here in Ireland on May Eve, the night before May Day, it is traditional to build bonfires. Everyone, young an old, can enjoy a bonfire of crisply burning twigs, setting the night aglow in wonderful colours and releasing a lovely aroma of the woodlands into the air.

Unfortunately, that is not exactly how things are done in Limerick. May Eve is now seen by some as an opportunity to burn old mattresses, tires and whatever other junk has accumulated. And this is often done right in the middle of the city, in areas where a large fire is a significant safety risk.

the first blaze is doused

This fire was extinguished after firefighters rapidly answered a call to a blaze on Lock Quay, which is just off the start of the Dublin Road. The smoke was so dense that it was difficult to snap the first picture; it was necessary to wait for a moment when the wind went still so the smoke was not obscuring the view completely. The smell was one of burning rubber and the noxious chemicals were carried directly into perhaps one hundred nearby homes.

From the crowd it is evident that this is a family affair. It was mostly children starting the blaze but teens and a few adults stood nearby, far enough away that they could not be directly involved but obviously coordinating, or at least condoning, the action.

blaze #2 on Lock Quay

After the firefighters had left a second blaze was started, this one closer to the banks of the canal. While this was far less likely to burn down anyone's houses, the pollution in the air was just as foul. Is this a traditional affair of the seasons? Are people celebrating the oncoming summer? Looking around at the two listless spectators I do not think the fires can be justified in that way.

blaze #3 on Lock Quay

A third fire in the same stretch. It should be noted that this canal-side path has been "revitalised" and has been said by some to be a tourist attraction. It is part of a walking trail that extends to far outside the city.

Despite this, a row of derelict buildings has been allowed to remain. The light standards have never been fitted with bulbs, so the area is inadequately lit. The canal itself is full of refuse when it is not merely stagnant water. More than one person has lost their life along this stretch in the past couple of years, and still others have been attacked in the unsafe environment, as it forms the most direct route between the city and an area where thousands live.

the third blaze is ignored

Firefighters come to the third blaze. But rather than douse it, they merely remove any remaining items that might be burnt. Here they toss a tire into the canal.

It should be noted that dozens of other fires could be seen raging about the city, some larger than those photographed here. Undoubtedly the firefighters were overworked and frustrated at having to deal with such petty criminal activity.

However, the example they set here will only encourage further destruction of the environment, in a culture which seems to think it quite ok to throw refuse anywhere handy, drink until intoxicated on public thoroughfares and urinate in public.

And where were the gardaĆ­ on this night? Although called to the initial blaze they never bothered showing up. Activities like these are allowed to continue, taxing emergency workers and possibly placing lives at risk in situations of real emergency.

I am a big supporter of Limerick and the arts and culture in this city. As such I am in opposition to this sort of selfish destructive behaviour. Give me a good old pagan celebration anytime. But an excuse to burn your refuse in public? I think not!



Anonymous said...

nice pictures,does the same happen on halloween night in limerick?

robin said...

The firecrackers have already started... in fact have been going on for more than a week. I am not sure if any significant buildings will be burnt down.

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