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Dog poo droppers, menacing kids and red-light breakers of Dublin: this writer did not get the non-confrontation memo

It feels like there’s been a gradual shift away from challenging bad behaviour in person

I love municipal issues. Local council meetings are my preferred form of unscripted drama. A heated town hall meeting about parking? That’s more entertaining to me than any Real Housewives franchise. Why would I choose to watch very blond, very skinny women yell at each other over wine when you can hear how Dalkey residents “feel like the Palestinians trapped in Gaza” over bike lanes and the traffic restrictions they have created for motorists? Anda all for free.

The ongoing war over dog poo on the nation’s footpaths continues to rage. The reported casualties so far have included the hands of wheelchair users, the wheels of prams, the soles of new shoes and the curiosity of some children who have learned the hard way that those brown things are not rocks. How many trainers must be damaged? How many more entryway carpets must be destroyed before we see sense and end this madness?

We all like to think we would be on the right side of history if we were alive during certain big conflicts. Of course we would have opposed Hitler. Of course in the battle of team Jennifer versus team Angelina, ideally we would have realised Brad Pitt was the problem. While hindsight always has 20-20 vision, there is only one clear side to take in the great dog poo war of 2024. It takes a special kind of selfishness to watch your beloved dog lay a steaming turd on the path and leave it to be picked up involuntarily by the wheels and shoes of your fellow citizens.

So when I heard rumours that some Dublin dwellers were mounting a new offensive to tackle the issue, I was only too interested. Chalk drawings appeared circling the leftover dog bogs on the pavement in neat circles the way you might label something “Exhibit A” in court. The white line then led down to a message in handwritten all-caps telling the offender to pick it up, and without even a “please” added.


In a neighbourhood group chat there was even talk of getting a private investigator on the case. A member said they had spoken to a PI who was willing to prepare a report for court that would include identities and photographic evidence. The fee? Just under €1,000, if would anyone like to chip in?

In Ireland, the attitude towards direct confrontation seems to be the same as the instruction about looking directly into the sun: don’t

Although I wholeheartedly support crowdfunding private investigations for petty crimes and just pettiness in general, I think there might be other solutions. Personally confronting the pooper-non-scooper in action seems like less work than hiring someone to do a stakeout of the street. Especially when you consider that only one fine for dog fouling was actually paid in Dublin City Council in four years.

To be fair, maybe they had already tried that to no avail. But in general, sometimes it feels there’s been a gradual societal shift away from in-person confrontation. Instead of complaining about an issue at a restaurant, people would rather write savage Google reviews or Yelp after they’ve left and the problem can’t be solved. There are work acquaintances who are lovely in person yet feel emboldened to send electronic missives rude enough to have you replying “Dear Ryan, I hope this email finds you well or not at all because if you CC my boss one more time, I’m putting you in an unmarked grave”.

Where once “see something, say something” was encouraged, it feels unwise or even unsafe to call out bad behaviour in public, whether it’s dog-poo droppers, litterbugs, kids harassing strangers for kicks, or people who put their feet on empty train seats. Then you have the added cultural influence of Ireland, where the attitude towards direct confrontation seems to be the same as the instruction about looking directly into the sun: don’t.

Sadly I have no powers of emotional bottling. If I see something, you best believe I’m saying something. This is not always easy. Early in my relationship I told my partner that while I respected he was from a place where people aren’t encouraged to openly communicate their feelings, I come from a place where women are known to key theirs into the side of men’s cars. So it was in both of our interests to find a happy medium.

That was a joke: my partner drives a bike and I would never admit to being an accessory to a crime. But equally, I have no qualms shouting “It’s a green man” at drivers who refuse to stop at pedestrian crossings, nearly mowing people down in the process. If woman on the streets of Dublin has recently shouted “Nice indicator, ya flog” at you, just know (a) there’s a chance it could have been me and (b) you need to put your indicators on before you turn, not after.

So I will watch and wait, ready to use my powers (a good loud “Oi!”) for good (telling people to pick up their dog poo).