Plant Thieves hit Garda Memorial Roundabout

Plant thieves, who knew exactly what they were looking for, have hit Castleisland Tidy Towns Committee hard last weekend.

In a lowdown act of criminal and environmental vandalism and sheer selfishness, the thieves struck the recently planted project on the Garda Eugene Leonard Memorial Roundabout on the Killarney Road outside Castleisland and stole only the most expensive plants there.

“The thieves knew exactly what they wanted and left with two of the plants that cost the most and had another one pulled out – but they must have been disturbed. This was one of the worst and most disappointing setbacks we have had in more than 30 years of Tidy Towns. We are upset for our sponsor, our workers and the community,” said a spokesperson for the group.

“The landscaping on the roundabouts aims to convey to drivers on the bypass that Castleisland is a town worth a detour. All the effort there is meant to show that the town reflects the attractiveness of the roundabouts. It was recommended in the Tidy Towns adjudications over the past two years that it would be important to have the roundabouts landscaped. We would ask locals to keep an eye out for any activity in the area in the future especially late at night and pass any information to a Tidy Towns member or the Gardai. It is more than likely that someone saw these people in action as this is one of the busiest stretches of roadway in the system,” said the spokesperson.

Taking heed of the advice of the Tidy Towns adjudicators, the committee here made an appeal for sponsors to help with the work on the roundabouts. They spoke with several people and companies who expressed an interest in getting involved with the project.

The plants targeted  were ‘Red Robin’ or Photinia x fraseri . This  is a fast growing , evergreen shrub with a bold, upright gait.  It has leathery dark green leaves that are bright red when young. In mid to late spring it produces small white flowers which are sometimes followed by a red fruit. It should be noted by the thieves – but they’ll probably know – and any potential buyers that all members of this Photinia genus are highly poisonous to humans and animals and should not be planted in any situation where they might come into contact with it.

“We worked very hard to design the plan, pick out the plants that would give colour throughout the year, and spent two weeks in rain and shine with our FÁS workers and the Kerry County Council preparing, planting and spreading the stones. But last weekend when the project was nearing completion two of the biggest and most expensive plants were stolen from the centre of the roundabout,” according to the committee member.

They believe that someone out there knows exactly where these plants are now and they may even have been offered for sale in the locality.

“However, on a lighter note:  Local people are commenting on how well the town looks. This is true, especially this year. Our volunteers, FAS workers and the Co. Council workers are doing a fantastic job and are to be commended,” the spokesperson concluded.

It was because of the attributes he put so generously at the disposal of the community in Castleisland that Garda Leonard is honoured at this location. Attributes which find no reflection in the heartless actions of the thieves who struck at his memorial last weekend.

Another aggravating and little considered aspect to all this is the fact that, as I write this, the members of the local Tidy Towns committee are below at the church gate collecting for a campaign that will benefit the entire community.

The Garda Confidential Line is: 1800 666 111. or Crimestoppers on: 1800 250025    Castleisland Garda Station 066 71 41204

Crimestoppers is a partnership between private industry and An Garda Síochána. It is aimed at people who have information on crime. It guarantees anonymity and offers cash rewards for information.

On the late Garda Eugene Leonard:

He was cited as an outstanding servant of Gaelic Football in both his native Limerick and in Castleisland. And he was honoured in Castleisland in a Roundabout way.
While stationed as a Garda here the late Eugene Leonard got heavily involved with Castleisland Desmonds GAA Club. In an unofficial capacity of youth officer within the club, he is credited with steering many a young lad away from trouble and towards club involvement.
As a youth he played much of his football with the Monaleen GAA Club in Limerick. He played on the Limerick senior football team in the early nineties.
His legacy to the Desmonds Club lives on and is thriving today. The club’s annual ‘Family Fun Day’ was his gift to the community he served. He was passionate about getting the young people involved in an on-going capacity of club and team participation. This he bolstered with the idea of family involvement and the provision of a sure signpost away from trouble.
Tragically, if fittingly, he passed away suddenly while playing for Desmonds Juniors against Churchill at The Spa on the evening of August 14-2001.
While his legacy has facilitated many a fun day for the children of the locality, his club has never forgotten his contribution to its future generation of players and membership.
On Saturday evening, September 14th at 7-30pm the round-about on the Killarney Road side of the Castleisland By-pass was officially dedicated to the memory of Garda Eugene Leonard.
The official dedication ceremony was performed by Garda Leonard’s widow, Paulette with Chief Superintendent Pat O’Sullivan, Cllr. Bobby O’Connell and members of the Leonard family and representatives of the Monaleen GAA Club and Castleisland Desmonds GAA Club.
“This is an honour well deserved,” said local councillor and former mayor of Kerry, Bobby O’Connell.
“He made an outstanding contribution to the life of the community in and around Castleisland. He gave many a young lad a second chance if he agreed to get involved in sports. He was a behind-the-scenes man in so many ways – and sure, we can all see his legacy on the fun day every summer at the Desmonds club. It’s a well deserved honour,” said Cllr O’Connell.
Eugene Leonard is in very good company on the by-pass on which his memory is honoured. The entire project is named after Con Houlihan and the other roundabouts are in honour of two Rugby greats: Mick Galwey and the late Moss Keane.