Dublin City Council spends €11,000 a day on portable toilets

Majority of 150 portable toilets to be decommissioned due to excessive cost and low usage

A public toilet operated by Dublin City Council at the top of Grafton Street in Dublin. The council said usage of this facility had  almost halved from 19,000 to 10,000 and its retention would be kept under review. Photograph: Bryan O Brien/The Irish Times.

A public toilet operated by Dublin City Council at the top of Grafton Street in Dublin. The council said usage of this facility had almost halved from 19,000 to 10,000 and its retention would be kept under review. Photograph: Bryan O Brien/The Irish Times.

 

Portable toilets installed across Dublin city last month in response to criticism of the lack of toilet facilities are being decommissioned due to excessive costs and low usage.

In early June Dublin City Council installed 150 portable toilets across the city following a weekend where drinkers congregated in large numbers on the streets necessitating a major clean-up operation.

The council said the facilities were costing €11,000 a day to manage, a cost which was “no longer sustainable” while usage numbers have reduced to a trickle. The council has already begun removing the portable toilets and plans to retain them at just three sites.

The local authority had been reluctant to install the facilities, raising the concern that more toilets would bring additional footfall into confined areas that did not have the capacity to deal with crowds.

However, following political pressure it commissioned the 150 portable toilets for 14 locations in the city.

Usage figures were initially “extremely high” but after the resumption of outdoor dining on June 7th “declined dramatically” the council said.

“On Saturday 5th June 23,602 people used the . . . [toilets]. We are now at the stage where we have a weekly high on a Saturday of approximately 1,000 people and a low of 244 people midweek.”

The number of portable toilets has been reduced to approximately 30 at eight locations, but the council said, “the reality is that these units have a significant cost and are simply not being used”.

The cost is mostly associated with providing security, servicing, and cleaning the toilets “to keep them to the standards citizens expect,” it said. “It would not be acceptable to cut any of these the elements as this would result in a sub-par service.”

Retain

The council is proposing to retain the portable toilets at Mountjoy Square and Diamond Park, at the junction of Sean MacDermott Street and Gardiner Street, both in the north east inner city, because the security presence would act as an “anti-social behaviour remediation measure” it said. Discussions are on-going with the council’s parks department in relation to also retaining the facility in Merrion Square.

More robust temporary toilet blocks were installed last year at the St Stephen’s Green end of Grafton Street and at Wolfe Tone Square on the northside. While usage figures at Wolfe Tone Square have remained largely unchanged at approximately 5,500 per week, the council said Grafton Street has almost halved from 19,000 to 10,000. Both facilities will be kept under review, it said.

A tender issued earlier this for the rollout of toilets as part of new cafe kiosks across Dublin, resulted in the provision of just six facilities. These will become operational over the course of the summer, but are largely in suburban locations, with just one in the city, beside the Iveagh Gardens on Clonmel Street.

The council said it was apparent there was a need for “permanent public toilet provision at certain strategic locations across the city, especially the city centre”. It said it would issue a tender for such facilities in the coming months.

*This article was amended on July 19th, 2021