A Dublin business group is calling for the grounds of Dublin Castle to be made available for outdoor drinkers this weekend to alleviate pressure on the city streets.
Large crowds gathered to socialise in South William Street and the surrounding area last weekend, leaving vast quantities of litter behind. Gardaí made several arrests for public order offences.
Martin Harte, chief executive of business organisation Temple Bar Company said the small streets around South William Street and Temple Bar cannot cope with mass gatherings of street drinkers, but said large numbers could be safely accommodated in the grounds of Dublin Castle.
“There are enormous open spaces in Dublin Castle, if as seems to be the case, we are going to facilitate street drinkers in the city, you could fit 10,000 to 20,000 people in there.”
The castle already has a Garda presence with the traffic corps based in its grounds, Mr Harte said. “It would be a very controllable space, you could put in as many portaloos and bins as you need and it would avoid the terrible mess that was made of the city centre last weekend.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Public Works (OPW) said while the castle grounds were open and “enjoyed by thousands for rest and health and wellbeing”, outdoor drinking was “strictly prohibited” and “would not be tolerated”.
Dublin City Council has installed 150 portaloo toilets and more than 100 bins in the city centre ahead of this weekend, but it also said street drinking is prohibited under its bylaws.
The facilities are being located in Wolfetone Square, the central median on O’Connell Street, Smithfield’s south end, the Royal Canal, Mountjoy Square and Diamond Park on the northside.
On the southside toilets and bins will be placed at Sycamore Street, Temple Bar Square, Chatham Row, South King Street, Coppinger Row, Dame Court, Dame Lane and Merrion Square.
The council had been reluctant to install the facilities, with Coilín O’Reilly, who leads its city recovery strategy earlier this week saying there was a risk installing more bins and toilets would bring additional footfall into confined areas that did not have the capacity to deal with crowds.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other politicians sought the facilities on the city’s streets, following the scenes witnessed last weekend.
The council said some businesses had objected to the location of the portaloos close to their premises, but they would remain in-situ.
Mr Harte said pressurising the council to provide these facilities had been a “cynical move” by the Government. Uncontrolled street drinking had to be curbed if outdoor dining was to be successful.
Restaurants, cafes and pubs in Temple Bar are expected to provide outdoor dining for up to 800 people from next week, including in the fully pedestrianised Meeting House Square and Temple Bar Square. “That won’t be compatible for with free-for-all street drinking,” Mr Harte said.
Earlier on Friday, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan condemned the forced entry to the historic bandstand in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green.
A large group of youths on Thursday evening broke through security barriers erected to protect the 19th century bandstand. Several people climbed up onto the rafters of the bandstand, while a large speaker played music to a tightly packed crowd dancing, with no social distancing in place, and few wearing face masks.
Mr O’Donovan said he understood people were “eager to enjoy the outdoor”, but said: “This is no excuse for damaging historic structures and displaying reckless behaviour as we have witnessed yesterday and in the past days at the bandstand in St Stephen’s Green.
“Covid-19 is still circulating in the community and to protect the progress we have made, basic health measures still apply outdoors, including avoiding crowds and keeping your distance.”