Public service staff to lose Dublin Castle car parking

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

The long-established practice of using Dublin Castle’s lower yard for public service staff car parking is to be phased out and eventually eliminated by the Office of Public Works (OPW), in recognition of the castle’s historic importance.

There are 210 parking spaces within the castle, of which about 96 are located in the Lower Yard, for staff from the Revenue Commissioners, Comptroller and Auditor General’s office, OPW, Garda Síochána, Chester Beatty Library and Assay Office.

Parking is available to the holders of permits, which cost €200 per year – the equivalent of €1 per working day, compared with a minimum of €3 per hour in city-centre multistorey car parks. Prior to 2010, public servants working in the castle enjoyed free parking.

In response to queries from The Irish Times, the OPW said it was a matter for each agency to decide on the allocation of permits. “Parking is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and there is no guarantee of parking facilities to any individual or permit holder,” it said.

The OPW said its aim was to “eliminate and significantly reduce car parking within the castle complex and, in particular, the lower yard area . . . The eventual aim and policy of the OPW and castle management is to remove all car parking in the lower yard.”

Car-free policy

“OPW policy for the Upper and lower yards of Dublin Castle are for it to be car-free”, a spokeswoman said. “Significant progress has been achieved in this regard in recent years . . . The OPW will continue its work in 2013 on reducing parking in the lower yard.”

Car parking has already been eliminated in the Upper Yard and at the Palace Street gate area, in conjunction with the pedestrian paving works recently completed by Dublin City Council. A ban on weekend parking in the lower yard was introduced last October.

Following a €3 million renovation of the 1974 Stamping Building and Printworks – which was used for public hearings by the planning tribunal – all 36 parking spaces in front of it were removed to make room for a new art installation by sculptor Michael Warren.

The Printworks will provide a conference facility for EU presidency meetings and related events, with a new reception area on the ground floor of the Stamping Building as well as “appropriate cloakroom, toilets and limited kitchen facilities”, according to the OPW.

Safety measures

“Permanent removal” of car parking in front of the Chapel Royal and Record Tower was implemented from January 1st last as part of the new fire and safety measures in the castle, under which new dedicated assembly points are being located in this area.

This follows the completion of a number of health and safety works within the castle, including rewiring and upgrading of fire alarm systems and emergency lighting as well as improving disabled access in several areas of the complex.

“On many occasions during the EU presidency car parking will be restricted or banned in areas including the lower yard and there will be a general reduction in issued permits during 2013,” the OPW said, adding that this would “complement the Dubline project”, a reference to the city-centre tourist trail project.

Greater public/pedestrian access to the lower yard as well as allowing “appropriate events” to take place in this area would “add to the appreciation of the castle” – which, as its website notes, has been at the centre of Irish history for more than 800 years.

At one stage during the boom period, it was envisaged that the lower yard could be excavated for underground car parking.

The OPW now says there are “no plans to provide an underground car park within the Dublin Castle complex”.