There have been 90 incidents of graffiti reported to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, including threats against border post staff in Larne, during the past two months.
The graffiti first appeared on a gable wall at Redlands Road in the harbour area saying ‘All border post staff are targets’ and was reported to police on January 21.
To date, graffiti has been removed from two thirds of sites in the council area with 30 still outstanding after funds dried up.
Mid and East Antrim PCSP (Policing and Community Safety Partnership) Chairman DUP Councillor John McDermott said that he was “disappointed but not surprised” by a refusal by the Department for Justice to fund further graffiti removal.
Cllr McDermott indicated that the request was made after the remaining £15,000 of the local PCSP budget had been used to help with removal costs which he said was “for the betterment of the community”.
He indicated that at the start of last month, he had been advised that the council had funds only to pay for the removal of graffiti which was “deemed to contain threats to life”.
Cllr McDermott said: “On March 9, I wrote to the Justice Minister Naomi Long, MLA and asked if the Justice Department would supply extra funding to allow us to remove as much of the graffiti as possible.
“On March 25, I got a three-page letter saying that while she appreciated the work done thus far by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and the Police and Community Safety panel in supplying extra finance but the Justice Department would not be supplying any extra funding for graffiti removal and recommends that MEA council and the PCSP revisit their 2021/22 action plan to make adjustments to deal with graffiti. Disappointed but not surprised.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council took the decision to withdraw 12 environmental health officers from duties at the Port of Larne on February 1 due to concerns over threats to their safety.
A statement issued by the council at the time said: “It follows an upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour in recent weeks including the appearance of graffiti in the local area referencing increasing tensions around the Northern Ireland protocol and describing port staff as targets and it being ‘time for war’.”
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “Over the last couple of weeks council has been prioritising the removal of graffiti which threatens Port staff and we will continue to remove any such graffiti.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “The Department of Justice has no statutory obligation to remove graffiti or to fund its removal. However, the Department and Northern Ireland Policing Board provides £326k of annual funding to the Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) to help improve community safety, tackle ASB (anti-social behaviour) and increase confidence in policing across the borough.
“The Department and Board were content to approve a request from the PCSP to increase its £5k allocation towards the costs of removing offensive graffiti in the area up to £24k in 2020/21.
“As such, through its support for the activities of the PCSP, the Department has made a significant contribution towards addressing this issue in Mid and East Antrim.
“It is a matter of regret that such funds have to be diverted towards meeting the costs of repairing criminal damage and we would call again on those engaging in this destructive behaviour to desist.”