Gardaí not leading by example on parking

Mon, Jan 16, 2012, 00:00

It’s not easy being a pedestrian when you find your path blocked by a four-wheel drive parked on the pavement

OUTSIDE HARCOURT Street Garda station there are four vehicles parked with all their wheels on the pavement. On Thursday, January 12th, at 4.40pm these vehicles were: a grey Peugeot 407 with a Dublin registration, a crushed front left wheel arch and scrapes on the left-hand side rear passenger door; a silver Ford Mondeo, also Dublin registered; a Meath-registered Ford Fiesta Zetec and the fourth car, parked at the far gate, towards Stephen’s Green, is a huge Toyota Land Cruiser, with a Dublin registration.

But this is small beer indeed when compared with the parking outside Pearse Street Garda station. Here cars are not only double-parked but triple-parked. The queue starts at the corner of Tara Street with a black Mercedes E200 saloon. It has its right-hand rear wheel insouciantly perched on the pavement. “Garda cars,” volunteered a young male bystander. There are 18 of these cars, double or triple-parked. The greyish Opel Vectra with the 04 Dublin registration is sheltered from passing traffic by the 07 Galway- registered Ford Focus Zetec. Is this triple parking? Yes, it is. And so on, up through the black or navy Ford Fusion 2 estate and the silver 06 Meath Ford Mondeo, which is parked snugly beside the dark 03 D Toyota Corolla, in another impressive example of triple-parking.

The line of double and triple-parking outside Pearse Street station ends at the traffic island at the top of Pearse Street. In a neat coincidence, the 17th, or second-last, car in the line is also a dark Mercedes E220 CDI, this one having an 09 Dublin registration.

Like its brother at the start of the queue this Mercedes has its right-hand rear wheel perched on the pavement. Unlike the rest of the cars noted, this Mercedes is parked perpendicular to the station. It is hemmed in by a Skoda parked across it. (The other cars which were parked in a conventional way, perpendicular to the station – in other words in an unobstructive way – were not noted.)

At this point a garda approached and pleasantly asked why I was writing down all the registration numbers of the cars double and triple-parked outside Pearse Street station. For security reasons, he said, gardaí would not be happy about that. So the registration numbers of the cars mentioned will not be printed here, but I have every single one of them.

The Garda does a very good job a lot of the time. In dealing with the demented, the suicidal, the mentally ill, the homeless, the furious, the drunk and the just plain crazy, it performs a thankless task. This is the work which is truly heroic, and for which there should be lavish Garda medals.

No matter how considerable the Garda’s virtues, police abuse of the parking system makes this country look – and worse still, feel – like a banana republic.

Take the parking outside the Bridewell at 10.30 on a Friday morning. There is a bronze Mercedes, with an 07 D registration, parked in the middle of the pavement. That is not a figure of speech: it is parked four square in the middle of the pavement, just outside the entrance to the Garda station’s car park.

The bronze Mercedes blocks half the width of the pavement. Pedestrians have to navigate around it. The car might just have a female owner, because there is a Lancome umbrella neatly rolled up in the back window. If the owner is female, she is a lucky lady indeed to be able to obstruct a pavement with such impunity. At lunchtime the car is gone.

We’re going to leave the Garda vans and patrol cars which are parked illegally outside St Michan’s church, opposite the Bridewell, at 10.30 in the morning, out of this, even the patrol car covered in bird droppings which boasts a tax disc with an expiry date of October 2011. And the blue Audi Quattro and the black Opel Astra which are parked near the bronze Mercedes, each with all four of its wheels on the pavement.

According to the Courts Service, the new Criminal Courts Building in Parkgate Street was built with 72 parking spaces for court staff, the judiciary, all prison vans and some Garda cars on official business.

The new building is well served by public transport. Nevertheless it looks as if most gardaí like to park on a scenic road which boasts two sets of double yellow lines – first turn left as you enter the Phoenix Park – and destroy a grass verge in the process.

In fairness, the double yellow lines run out after the first couple of cars.

You may ask how it can be known that the cars parked here belong to gardaí. Well, here is a tiny clue. On the back seat of the 24th parked car in this line, a silver Toyota Avensis, with a Dublin registration, lie chapter 7 and chapter 9 of a Garda handbook. Chapter 7: Forensic Investigation and Identification. Chapter 9: The Investigation of Murder and Suspicious Death. In the former the heading “Preservation of Scene” had been marked.

All of this a very short drive from Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park, and a lot of State real estate in the area, at which parking surely could be provided.

The Road (Traffic and Parking) Regulations Act 1997 exempts gardaí acting in the course of their duties. The latest report of the parking appeals officer suggests that a handful of Garda cars are clamped each year. There were 19 appeals in 2010, all granted.

The public believe that gardaí are seriously pushing it, that they operate a carte blanche to park wherever they like – can it possibly be true that this situation pertains all over the country? – and we don’t appreciate it.

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