Pedestrian zones, open parks and Garda team proposed to quell disorder

Dublin Bay South constituency candidates offer ideas to aid outdoor socialising in city

The OPW says it has  “no plans to extend opening times” beyond the existing 9pm at St Stephen’s Green and 7.30pm at the Iveagh Gardens. Photograph: Tom Honan

The OPW says it has “no plans to extend opening times” beyond the existing 9pm at St Stephen’s Green and 7.30pm at the Iveagh Gardens. Photograph: Tom Honan

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Pedestrianising College Green, keeping parks open later, and a dedicated Garda team to patrol hotspots where people gather are among election candidates’ proposals aimed at averting the kind of disorder that blighted the capital over the bank holiday weekend.

The main disturbances on Friday and Saturday night all happened in the Dublin Bay South constituency where politicians are vying for the Dáil seat vacated by former Fine Gael minister Eoghan Murphy.

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne said she was disappointed “to see things take such a sinister turn” for a second night on Saturday. She had been contacted by residents and businesses worried about “how chaotic it was”.

She expressed hope the situation will improve as the country reopens but businesses, residents and visitors must be protected.

Ms Byrne said: “We need to allocate more space so that large numbers aren’t all funnelling into the same streets.

“Opening our parks later and pedestrianising College Green would help with that.”

She also said that “more immediately”, a team of “event control experts” needed to be brought in to assist Dublin City Council and the Garda in managing the city.

Iveagh Gardens

Fianna Fáil candidate councillor Deirdre Conroy said the disturbances in the city were “unacceptable” but also “predictable”.

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She suggested reopening outdoor hospitality would return “some normality” to the city centre but also said the Office of Public Works (OPW) should extend the opening hours of the park at St Stephen’s Green as well as the Iveagh Gardens.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik also suggested this, saying there should have been more awareness that “if you’re closing parks early, people will then be moving on”.

She said extending the opening hours might address some of the difficulties seen in nearby streets where people are “very hemmed in”.

The OPW said it had “no plans to extend opening times” beyond the existing 9pm at St Stephen’s Green and 7.30pm at the Iveagh Gardens.

Fine Gael candidate Cllr James Geoghegan said the weekend’s events were “disappointing”, adding: “The gardaí have had a tough enough job as it is without having to deal with kids setting bins on fire and hurling missiles.”

He also said young people have had a “challenging time during lockdown” and pointed to the reopening of businesses which would mean “people will be able to gather in a controlled environment once again”.

‘Gathering hotspots’

He pointed to Monday’s reopening and said: “Let’s get people back into beer gardens”. He added: “Having a pint is almost a civic duty at this point given the challenges the industry has faced during this pandemic.”

Mr Geoghegan also suggested, “Perhaps we could examine a dedicated Garda team being put in place to manage and police city centre streets over the summer months.

“A team of 25-30 members of An Garda Síochána could patrol gathering hotspots in the city to prevent the scenes witnessed this weekend and to ensure the safety of the public during the pandemic.”

Sinn Féin candidate Senator Lynn Boylan said: “An outdoor summer can’t be just for those lucky enough to have a garden.”

She argued that, “Closing off prominent streets only creates an oppressive atmosphere of us and them.”

Ms Boylan said the Garda, Dublin City Council, Ministers and other stakeholders “need to come together and urgently put together a plan for the outdoor summer that we were told to have”. She added, “There is absolutely no excuse for anti-social behaviour but there is also no excuse for not having a plan.”

Monday sees the reopening of restaurants, cafes and bars for outdoor dining.

Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres can reopen for individual training only, while non-professional outdoor sports matches can take place once again.

Cinemas and theatres are also allowed to reopen.