Rampant rats shaming Belfast
Our city councillors in Belfast have many problems to try to solve, but people will find it hard to believe that one of their challenges is dealing with rats, which are rampant in the City Hall and in other places.
The rats were first spotted in the City Hall by guests attending an evening function there last month, and by councillors at a Monday meeting.
We recently ran a story about a rat being spotted at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet at Shaftesbury Square, and last year a Caffe Nero near the City Hall was closed for weeks because of rodents.
Many other places in Northern Ireland are facing the same problem, and these developments are bad for our image.
The shocked reaction of the diners who saw the rats in the City Hall recently was bad enough, but what if they had been executives trying to bring inward investment or more tourists to Northern Ireland?
All cities face rodent problems, but we should not be expected to socialise and to dine with them in splendid premises such as the City Hall, where people are trying to keep this serious problem under control. It is said that we are never far from a rat, but they must not over-run us.
One rodent expert has suggested that the current infestation is partly due to the current bad weather, as well as under-spending on pest control, and the behaviour of people who leave waste food lying around.
There is little that we can do about the weather, but the council should find more money for pest control, and people should be discouraged from dumping their uneaten food.
Sadly, rats are not Belfast City Council's only environmental problem. The city's infrastructure is badly in need of an overhaul, and visitors have been expressing their distaste for the rotten smells which waft over parts of the city.
These emanate from some of our sewers, and there is a case perhaps for taking a hard look at this and for pouring some more money down the drains, for the right reasons.
Many people have been working hard to promote a better image for Belfast and Northern Ireland, to try to encourage more tourism to our Province. So it's even more a pity that by failing to deal properly with rats, bad smells and other unsavoury topics, we seem at times to be our own worst enemies.