Toilet rollout plan for Dublin city to involve coffee dock operators

Two temporary public toilet facilities are costing Dublin council more than €360,000 a year to operate

Up to the 1970s there were sixty staffed public toilets in Dublin. Today there are less than a handful public conveniences. Irish Times Dublin Editor Olivia Kelly reports. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

The first major rollout of public toilets across Dublin city in decades is set to get under way this summer under a new deal between Dublin City Council and coffee dock operators.

Two temporary public toilet facilities were installed at St Stephen’s Green and Wolfe Tone Square last summer in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw toilets in cafes and shopping centres close.

The council has been under pressure to expand these facilities to other parts of the city. However it has emerged that these toilets are costing more than €360,000 a year to operate, and while the council said it would retain these facilities for the foreseeable future, it needed to consider more cost-effective options.

The council is in the process of devising a scheme which could see licence fees for coffee stands reduced or removed if the operators provide and maintain toilets for the public.

It is understood the council would specify the type of toilet to be used, and the operator of the coffee stand would be responsible for its upkeep.

It is not yet known if charges would be levied for using the toilets, but it is expected the public would be able to use the facilities without having to buy a coffee.

Green Party councillor Donna Cooney said while the retention of the two temporary facilities was welcome, the implementation of more cost-effective solutions was required.

“The temporary facilities are costing €500 each a day to staff, that’s €182,000 each a year. While we have agreed a budget for more toilets, it wouldn’t be enough for the amount of toilets we require, so exploring a more cost-effective idea could make a real difference.”

Petition

More than 900 people have signed a change.org online petition calling for more public toilets to be installed in the city this summer.

Orlaith Delargy, who established the petition, said she was encouraged by the council’s response, but said the pressure needed to be maintained to ensure the facilities were provided swiftly.

“A lot of people are clamouring for this, and with the summer on its way its a very urgent issue that needs rapid attention.”

Ms Delargy said she understood there were significant cost implications, but she believed many people would be willing to pay a small fee to cover those unable to pay.

“Taking a €1 card payment from those that are able to pay could slash the running costs, and ensure a safe and supervised operation.”

In the 1970s there were more than 60 staffed public toilets in the city and suburbs, but by the 1990s that had been reduced to nine. By the end of that decade all had been closed due to increasing anti-social problems, including drug abuse and vandalism.

Anti-social behaviour

Some unstaffed automatic public conveniences were subsequently installed, but while a small number remain in operation in the suburbs, those in the city centre were closed, again due to anti-social behaviour.

The city council has made a number of attempts to solve the problem over the years, including asking cafes and restaurants to provide free access to their toilets, but this scheme foundered largely because of a lack of incentive for the businesses involved.

The council says it will be issuing details of its plans to expand toilet provision shortly.