Dublin’s Portobello Plaza closed for weekend due to ‘unacceptable’ behaviour

Council to trial traffic plan near St Stephen’s Green in the capital to facilitate outdoor dining

Portobello Plaza in Dublin, which has been closed off this weekend by Dublin City Council following recent antisocial behaviour and littering. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Portobello Plaza in Dublin, which has been closed off this weekend by Dublin City Council following recent antisocial behaviour and littering. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

The Portobello Plaza in Dublin is being closed this weekend and gardaí will be mounting an operation to prevent large crowds gathering there over the weekend.

Dublin City Council last month urged people to stop gathering at the plaza to drink as antisocial behaviour and littering had been an increasing problem, with many residents complaining to the council and Garda.

In recent weeks gardaí have stepped up patrols in the area and confiscated alcohol being consumed in public. However, the council has now decided to close the plaza this weekend. The decision will be reviewed next week, it said.

Portobello Plaza is located in Dublin’s south inner city on the banks of the Grand Canal and has proven a popular gathering location since the pandemic resulted in pubs being closed.

The council said it “regrets” the decision and urged people not to come to the plaza as a Garda operation would be in place to keep it closed and clear.

“Dublin City Council is very aware of the importance of public spaces in recent times but some behaviour at this location in recent weeks has been completely unacceptable. Up to a thousand people have congregated in the area on recent weekends, without due regard for Covid-19 restrictions,” it said.

“The associated antisocial behaviour is having a hugely detrimental effect on both the local community and the environment,” it added, explaining it had consulted with the Garda, public representatives and local residents.

The plaza was due to close early on Friday until Monday morning.

However, Liam Ryan, owner of the Lower Deck pub, which faces onto the square, said the measure threatened local businesses who benefit from people using the space.

Takeaway pints

He said pub staff have served takeaway pints from the door of the premises following requests from local residents to do so, adding that his relationship with people living in the area was very good.

“We only serve for five evenings a week, for three or four hours, and if it’s too busy we just close up,” he said.

“That square has been occupied [by crowds] for the last seven or eight years without any pubs selling pints. We did not invent the crowds,” he said.

“The problem would be very limited if there was enough portaloos put out, it’s as simple as that.”

Garda Public Order Unit at Portobello Dublin last weekend. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Garda Public Order Unit at Portobello Dublin last weekend. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Local Labour councillor Kevin Donoghue said that while there were problems with ongoing antisocial behaviour, notably public urination, he did not support the closure and has suggested the creation of a space that could be closed at night.

“I am only one of two councillors who have asked for [public toilets] to be looked at,” he said, explaining this could be part of an overall solution but that gardaí would have to play their part if a more controlled meeting space was created as a temporary measure.

The council said it was illegal to drink alcohol in a public place under city council bylaws, adding there would be increased Garda enforcement in Portobello this week and that “anyone found consuming alcohol outdoors in a public space may be fined”.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the issues around Portobello were as much about antisocial behaviour and littering and people drinking on a public street, which is against the law. “The fundamental advice we’re giving people is meeting outdoors is much much safer than meeting indoors,” he said.

Traffic arrangements

Meanwhile, new traffic arrangements to facilitate outdoor dining and provide additional space for pedestrians are being trialled in Dublin city centre this weekend.

Under the arrangements, which are in place from 6am on Saturday until 11pm on Sunday, there will be one lane of traffic on Merrion Row serving traffic from Kildare Street.

Traffic from St Stephen’s Green East will be diverted via Hume Street and Ely Place, where the direction of the traffic will be reversed. Traffic from Merrion Square seeking to head into the Stephen’s Green area and car parks will be diverted via Pembroke Street and Leeson Street. Redirected bus route information is available on the Dublin Bus website.

The arrangements are being trialled to facilitate outdoor dining, the council said.

“The decision to proceed with the trial was made following a recent public consultation that received almost 2,400 submissions, with 93 per cent of respondents in favour.”

The council said if the trial is successful a design can then be finalised in the coming weeks which would allow for accessible footpath extensions on both sides of Merrion Row to facilitate outdoor dining this summer.