City firms call for Dublin's director of traffic to resign


Dublin city businesses have called for the resignation of the city council's director of traffic, after gridlock caused the Garda to warn motorists to stay out of the city centre yesterday.

Business people and traders are planning a series of protests beginning in early January in an attempt to force a rethink of traffic management in the central city area.

However, the director of traffic, Mr Owen Keegan, insisted that responsibility for the gridlock lay with "decisions taken by people themselves to use their cars".

"We have given up trying to cater for the private car and if people haven't worked that out yet then there is a serious problem with IQ," he said.

"The argument that private car capacity should be increased was lost a long time ago."

Traffic on all approach roads to Dublin was heavy from about mid-day yesterday, according to the AA, which said that by lunchtime "it was manic". All city centre car-parks were full by about 1.00 p.m., and the AA commented that by 4.00 p.m. it was "still crazy".

Dublin Bus said difficulties were reported in the city centre but services were operating well with the help of additional gardaí manning junctions.

Speaking on behalf of traders in the Grafton Street area, Mr Sean Barron said that in the area known as the Clarendon Street cell, four car-parks were full and traffic had quickly turned to gridlock. While there were a number of access routes to the area, mostly from the South Great George's Street area, he said the traffic had only one major exit route along Mercer Street, "which was gridlocked with traffic entering through York Street".

Mr Barron said it was "obvious whatever the policy is here, it is not working". He had complained to the director of traffic as recently as December 2nd but "got no reply". Mr Barron who is also a member of the traffic committee of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said it was " time for Owen Keegan to resign; he is not listening".

He said traders in the Grafton Street area were seriously concerned that shoppers were being diverted to suburban shopping centres and were being discouraged from the city centre. He had spoken to traders and there was enthusiasm for a "series of protests" in the new year.

An unrepentant Mr Keegan told The Irish Times he did "not feel responsible for the situation". He said he "did not persuade thousands of people to come out in their cars" and praised the Garda, who were out "in huge numbers".

"But people will park on junctions. What was happening here was that gardaí were whooshing them on and they were driving around the block and blocking a different junction".

There was "a particular problem today as people chose to shop and take their cars, probably because of the rain". But, he said, "in general things work very, very well".

Mr Keegan referred to the electronic signs on approach roads to the city centre which showed the number of car-parking spaces available in the city.

He said that "nobody is compelled to get into their cars to go to the shops .... they must accept the consequences".