A group of environmental and transport activists has blocked traffic on Dublin’s Lower Liffey Street on Saturday to highlight the capital’s air pollution problems.
A "clear air zone" has been created by members of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, Dublin Commuter Coalition, the Irish Pedestrian Network and Extinction Rebellion Ireland and is due to be in place until around 6pm. The group organised a similar action last month on South William Street.
Dublin City Council is planning to pedestrianise Lower Liffey Street, with the proposal expected to go to a council vote on Monday.
Neasa Hourigan, Green Party councillor and founder of the Irish Pedestrian Network, said: "we want the authorities to prioritise public places for people, not cars".
“Dublin City Council is proposing to pedestrianise Lower Liffey Street by creating a people-friendly plaza, and we are calling on all city councillors to actively support that proposal,” she said.
Janet Horner of the Dublin Cycling Campaign said "our cities and our citizens are being choked by cars".
“We are seeing more and more evidence of the harm being caused by the emissions from motor vehicles,” she said.
“Air pollution harms all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable. This is a public health emergency, and we need to take immediate action to reduce motor traffic and to create clean air zones throughout the city. People have a right to clean air.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned earlier this year many areas of Dublin are experiencing worsening air pollution caused by nitrogen dioxide (NO2). with indications of frequent breaches of EU limits due to large volumes of traffic.
In a report, the EPA identified the worst areas in the capital as along the quays, at the entrance to and exit from the Dublin Tunnel, along the M50, on Pearse Street and in the vicinity of Heuston Station.
Kevin Carter, acting chairman of the Dublin Commuter Coalition, said air quality and the environmental impact of cars are going to be "election issues at the next general election".
“Politicians need to realise that people want cities that are clean, attractive and liveable. This isn’t possible if the streets are dominated by cars, so something has got to give,” he said.
Oscar Mooney of the Extinction Rebellion Ireland movement said: "Transport emissions account for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the rise of the private motor car has been a contributory factor in the acceleration of climate collapse.
“We have to take radical action to reduce our dependence on cars and enable more people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”