Phoenix Park ‘cannot cope’ with traffic volumes, Minister says

NTA and planners must not factor park into transport routes according to new plan

Minister of State for OPW Patrick O’Donovan, pictured with chief park superintendent Margaret Gormley, speaking on the publication of a plan to reduce commuter traffic, speeds and parking in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister of State for OPW Patrick O’Donovan, pictured with chief park superintendent Margaret Gormley, speaking on the publication of a plan to reduce commuter traffic, speeds and parking in the Phoenix Park. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Transport and planning authorities have to stop viewing Dublin’s Phoenix Park “as an avenue to O’Connell Street”, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said.

The number of cars using the park had reached “saturation levels”, with 10 million driving through every year, and it “cannot cope with the volume of traffic funnelled into it on a daily basis”, Patrick O’Donovan said.

He was speaking on the publication of a plan to reduce commuter traffic, speeds and parking in the Phoenix Park and to encourage visitors to choose more sustainable travel options.

Agencies involved in planning transport routes to the city centre cannot factor the Phoenix Park into their traffic solutions, he said.

“I am speaking to the NTA [National Transport Authority], but also the greater Leinster local authorities, not only west Dublin, but south Meath and Kildare. They need to realise the road going through the centre of the Phoenix Park is not a national primary road. It is not a road that can be factored into their traffic modelling. It needs to be factored out.”

Bus corridors

Mr O’Donovan said he was anxious that planned dedicated bus corridors could have the effect of displacing more commuter traffic into the park.

“We are very conscious there are going to be proposed changes to bus corridors in the not-too-distant future,” he said. “Where is that traffic going to go? We are not working in a vacuum here, but we would appeal to other agencies not to work in a vacuum either, and when they are making changes in their respective areas of responsibility to be cognisant that we have a very fragile biosphere and environment we have to protect.”

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE

In March of last year the OPW restricted car traffic in the park by closing most gates, with the exception of the Castleknock and Parkgate Street entrances, to encourage compliance with the 2km Covid-19 travel restriction. Mr O’Donovan last July ordered the gates to be reopened, saying the park was a “thoroughfare” for some commuters driving from Longford, Westmeath and Meath.

Speaking to The Irish Times this week he said that had just been a statement of fact.

“I was just stating the reality, that people are still using the park to commute. I wasn’t saying it was right or wrong, it was just a simple statement of fact,” he said. “I am not some sort of Neanderthal.”

However, he said his own attitude to the park had evolved.

“I was one of those people who parked for free on Chesterfield Avenue and walked down to the Ashling Hotel and got a Luas to go to Croke Park, but I have reflected on that and it’s not something I do anymore.”

Car parking

Car parking on Chesterfield Avenue was removed during the first pandemic wave last year to provide more space for cyclists. This measure will be retained, and the cones currently blocking cars will be replaced with permanent structures.

“Is it appropriate that Chesterfield Avenue, the entrance to the presidential residence Áras An Uachtaráin is one of the longest car parks in Dublin? As Minister for the OPW I have to say that it’s not.”

Mr O’Donovan said that while he was asking other agencies not to funnel traffic through the park, the OPW had to be mindful of the effect changes to the park could have on local communities.

“We would love to have a situation where we have no cars in the Phoenix Park, but I have to be very conscious that what we do in the park can have consequences for the urban villages around the park. They are our neighbours. I can’t lock the gates and dump our problems over the wall, and let our neighbours worry about it.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had made a submission to the consultation process on the plans cautioning against the closure of gates and roads in the park. However, Mr O’Donovan said this had no bearing on his decision-making.

“Absolutely not. Every submission carried the same weight,” he said. “But when the gates were closed people, often a lot of elderly people, were literally barricaded into their homes by people parking in front of their doors.”