Closing Dublin streets not wanted but council facing ‘difficult situation’ – official

More bins and toilets would ‘drive footfall and create more of a public health issue’

Dublin City Council has insisted it does not want to shut down city centre streets but warned it was facing "a very difficult situation" over mass gatherings for outdoor drinking.

Coilín O'Reilly, director of the council's City Recovery unit, set up to manage the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, said measures could be put in place in conjunction with An Garda Síochána to prevent scenes witnessed in recent days reoccurring over the coming bank holiday weekend.

Video footage of large crowds eating and drinking around South Great George’s Street, Exchequer Street and South William Street emerged on Saturday on social media, and the area was very heavily littered when teams of Dublin City Council workers arrived for a clean-up operation on Sunday morning.

“We’re going to have to look at how people get on to the streets, the number of people on the street at any one time, we’re going to have to look at the businesses on the street and how they are interacting with people on the street,” Mr O’Reilly said.


He said it took as many as seven council workers up to five hours to clean up the mess left by people who congregated around the South William Street area at the weekend.

Bins and toilets

On a lack of facilities – such as toilets and bins – to deal with such unorganised gatherings, Mr O’Reilly said the council was “in a very difficult situation”.

"We are criticised for not managing these unplanned mass gatherings, but you can't take action to condone or support them as well," he told RTÉ radio.

“We feel that if we provide toilets and bins at these locations it will only drive more footfall and create more of an issue from a public health perspective.

“We are somewhat stuck in that we have gatherings of this size, if we supply more toilets and bins, does that bring more people in, do we end up with bigger public health issues? It’s a very difficult situation to manage.”

Mr O’Reilly said he had “great sympathy” for businesses in the area, some of whom reported arriving in the morning to human excrement on their doorsteps, having to clean up other rubbish and having to close early because of crowds preventing normal customer footfall.

Council officials and the Garda are meeting with traders and others on Monday morning.

“We obviously don’t want to shut a city street,” said Mr O’Reilly. “I think that would have a detrimental effect for businesses on the street as well as citizens. We are very keen to facilitate an outdoor summer, the problem is what is people’s interpretation of an outdoor summer.”

The council has been working to issue hundreds of street furniture licences for traders over the last few weeks.

Bins in the area are emptied “constantly” but the council will “have to see if there is a better way to empty those bins or other things we can do, put bigger bins or more bins on street”, said Mr O’Reilly.


But he warned people also have to exercise personal responsibility. “There are hundreds of thousands of citizens of this city who engaged in hundreds of public spaces throughout the city over the weekend, with no issues whatsoever,” he said.

“They followed the public health guidelines, they took their waste with them or put it in the bin, planned where they went, used the facilities and the toilets where they were and there were no issues at all.

“This is the one location where issues came up.”

Mr O’Reilly said “people who are 25 are adults, they have to look at a situation they are in themselves and make their own decisions around it and we would encourage them to make better decisions.”