Anger over vandalism of Belfast parks
The vandalism of public parks has become a serious issue in many districts but it is completely shocking to find that the bill for repairs at one facility in west Belfast over the last year is running in excess of £150,000.
It needs to be stressed that the main problems are not caused by any form of over exuberance or horseplay but instead through deliberate and sustained attempts to destroy equipment which is designed for the benefit of the entire population
A children's play area and an outdoor gym in Falls Park were both extensively damaged through arson attacks over the last few days, and it later emerged that the perpetrators had gone to the lengths of stealing plastic cones from nearby roadworks before setting them alight.
As councillors have pointed out, the outdoor gym was part of an initiative to address the health problems which have reached alarming levels in a number of surrounding neighbourhoods.
The motivation of those who wreck the swings, slides and climbing frames which were installed for the enjoyment of young children in deprived communities is equally difficult to comprehend.
While vandals have been active on a widespread basis, the indications are that the biggest difficulties have been caused in inner city districts by youths who are intent on causing trouble during the hours of darkness.
Parents clearly need to exercise much more responsibility, although this may be a forlorn hope, and the courts also have to ensure that the culprits face realistic penalties when they are brought to justice.
However, it seems inevitable that our parks will have to be surrounded by increased levels of security, including floodlighting and CCTV. It all represents a sad comment on the state of modern society.