Graffiti can be an art form but it can also be plain vandalism, and where it is art it should be encouraged and where it is vandalism it should not be tolerated.
This is the view of Labour councillor Niall McNelis who is proposing a number of ways to deal with the issue of graffiti across Galway city.
Most graffiti tends to be ‘tagging’ - usually little more than letters or a large angular scrawl daubed across walls and such defacement looks unsightly and ugly. In some instances there has also been a problem with racist graffiti.
“One of the biggest problems that is scarring the landscape of our city, especially in my ward Knocknacarra, Salthill, and The Claddagh is the large number of graffiti tags sprawled on public and private property.”
At a recent meeting between the five councillors in the Galway City West ward and the Garda superintendent, councillors were given an assurance that the problem of tagging was “taken very seriously and if possible culprits will be charged”.
Cllr McNelis said he welcomes the trial initiative of Galway City Council in working with the probation office, where graffiti is removed. “I commend the council, with the very tight resources it has, in doing removal at the moment,” he said, “but more needs to be done.”
Cllr McNelis is calling on residents’ groups and volunteer organisations to become more actively involved in tackling the issue.
“Residents need to report graffiti if it is placed on private and public property,” he said. “This means a record of similar tags can be kept and that when the vandals are caught all individual tags will be recognised.”
However Cllr McNelis was keen to draw a distinction between tagging and the kind of graffiti that is better described as street art. Such graffiti is brightly coloured, involving complex and imaginative imagery, lettering, and colouring, and involves artistic skill and creativity.
“I also believe graffiti can be an art form,” said Cllr McNelis. “As a council we should look at Australian and Canadian models where specific spaces are made available for artists - Pump Lane in the West End and under the bridge on the Dyke Road show what can be achieved.”