It's just four days till our Big Spring Clean kicks off — and it’s one campaign that all Northern Ireland’s political parties can agree on.
All the main parties have united behind our Big Spring Clean banner, urging as many people as possible to clean up their area during Big Spring Clean week from Friday, April 16 to Sunday, April 25.
We’re recruiting a ‘green army’ of volunteers to roll up their sleeves, don gloves and pick up litter, giving Northern Ireland a spruce-up in time for the summer. Some 20 groups have now signed up to the campaign at TidyNI.org and they expect to muster around 750 volunteers.
Environment Minister Edwin Poots, who took part in our ongoing Big Clean-Up campaign earlier this year, said: “Dealing with litter is a costly, yet unnecessary, drain on scarce district council funds. This is money which could be better used within our communities.
“I am determined to do what I can to tackle the litter problem in Northern Ireland. People who litter should be aware that I am bringing forward stronger laws with bigger on-the-spot fines to help district councils to deal with this problem.”
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan said he was delighted to support the Big Spring Clean, saying it would see local communities pulling together to make a real difference.
“A great deal can be achieved when people try to change something that matters to them,” he said. “I would urge as many people as possible to take part in the Big Spring Clean-up — which will make a significant impact on the local environment, and make litter-strewn areas safer as well as more attractive.”
Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the initiative is an excellent opportunity for local communities to work together towards a worthwhile goal and engage with each other in a productive way.
“In Northern Ireland we are lucky to have some of the most magnificent scenery — but unfortunately this is often overshadowed or neglected by unsightly rubbish, fly tipping, graffiti or areas of dereliction in our urban areas,” he said.
“We need to recognise our environmental assets and ensure that we work together to preserve them for future generations. We recognise the need for partnership between the Executive, the Assembly, local government, local businesses, local farmers and importantly local communities.
“I would therefore encourage everyone to get involved in the Belfast Telegraph events and help to build better communities for all of us.”
Sinn Fein Policing Board member Martina Anderson, who has taken part in clean-ups in the Brandywell, Creggan and Shantallow areas, said she supported any efforts to clean up streets and the environment.
“We support any organisation that has any ideas that would assist in educating people in looking after their local environment and not to be littering and destroying the environment,” she said.
“It’s something that needs to start at a very early age and children need to be educated in anti-litter attitudes. There needs to be a comprehensive programme in schools so it becomes embedded.”
Alliance Leader David Ford said: “Keeping our town cities and countryside free from litter is essential if we are to maximise the great tourism potential that Northern Ireland holds.
“People can make a real difference in their neighbourhood and I want to congratulate the Belfast Telegraph on their efforts.”
Green Party MLA Brian Wilson said a public awareness campaign which helps to change attitudes towards litter is a good thing.
“I think our attitude towards litter is very different to that of our continental neighbours and we are in danger of giving a bad impression to tourists if we don't really try and tackle the issue,” he said.