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"When it comes to litter, we're number one!"

"Dear old dirty Dublin". Whoever coined that phrase to describe the capital of Ireland in bygone years would be surprised at the modern day twist given to the words. Meant affectionately, it has been given new meaning in recent findings, the first by the Mercer cost of living 2003 survey, the second in a study commissioned by Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL).

Two words stand out in both findings, "dear" and "dirty".

According to the Mercer study Dublin is the third dearest, meaning expensive, city in the European Union. Only London and Copenhagen rank higher.

And in world standings Dublin is listed among the top 100 most expensive cities, coming in twenty-first from the top, surpassing Paris, Vienna, Helsinki and Rome.

Since this web site links Canada and Ireland, it is cause for satisfaction to Canadians to note that no Canadian city was listed in the top 100. In fact, Ottawa, the capital of Canada, was listed as 127th, a full 106 points better than Dublin.

Ottawa claimed the further distinction of being the least expensive of the six Canadian cities surveyed, coming ahead ahead of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Regina.

The IBAL study delivered another black optic to "dear old dirty Dublin" by emphasizing its littered streets.

Dr. Tom Cavanagh, chairman of IBAL, was quoted as saying after publication of the study that "a person would have to go to North Africa to find cities as littered as Dublin".

For years tourists have bemoaned the prevalence of litter throughout the Irish countryside. Now the very capital of the country has a black mark against it on the same score.

Anyone who lived in Dublin in more litter free times will recall the diligence with which the park wardens in St. Stephen's Green speared every scrap of paper, chocolate bar wrapping, or discarded cigarette pack, keeping that central oasis litter free in all seasons of the year.

Municipal and local authorities have power to act against litter louts. Regrettably that power is but little used, and even when enforced is treated with disrespect.

A mere 28,000 on-the-spot fines were issued by local authorities last year, but fewer than half were paid. Court convictions were recorded in only a third of prosecutions taken.

"Expensive old dirty Dublin" is not a slogan with which to entice tourists. Neither is "Come to Ireland and see our litter."

Forget about SARS and Mad Cow disease. Canadian cities still have every reason to be proud of their place in world standings.


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