DECIBEL hell - the cacophony of noise from alarms, loud music and other aural irritants - was firmly in the political firing line yesterday.
The Green Party promised to be not only good for the environment, but also for your ears. It pledged to take action to put peace and quiet back into everyday life.
The party placed noise pollution at the top of its agenda along with other forms of pollution, announcing a private members' Bill for the Autumn that would crack down on the clamour no-one wants to hear.
The Bill, while certain to be defeated by the combined might of the Government parties, would impose new penalties and controls and beef up the ranks of noise inspectors. It will also form a key plank of the Greens' election manifesto.
Noise control officers would be hired by every local authority in the country if the Greens get into Government next year. They would be charged with taking immediate action once a complaint has been received from the public.
"They will have the powers to take action 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said party leader Trevor Sargent, who claimed the Noise Police would be largely financed by the revenue they generate from fines.
Such a force would provide "a clear and effective remedy for noise from building sites, car alarms, helicopters, noisy neighbours, barking dogs and outdoor events," Mr Sargent said.
The Greens' Neighbourhood Noise Bill seeks to simplify and enhance the tackling of noise pollution.
"Existing legislation deals with only certain types of environmental noise and involves a range of bodies as well as the courts," Mr Sargent said.
Environment spokesperson Ciaran Cuffe added: "All of us have experienced problems with neighbourhood noise at some point in our lives, yet noise hasn't received the same attention as other forms of pollution."
Under existing rules, different agencies are responsible for dealing with noise from different sources, he pointed out. "Barking dogs are dealt with by local authority dog control officers, loud music by environmental health officers and the Irish Aviation Authority is responsible for noise from low-flying helicopters."
The Green Party also intends to tighten up regulations to reduce noise pollution at a more commercial level.
Local authorities and bodies have to draw up noise maps and agree action plans, but do not provide meaningful timetables or incentives to achieve it, Mr Sargent said.
If you are intersted, the Bill is available for download at: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/bills28/bills/2006/5606/b5606d.pdf