Just 456 public payphones are left in the State

Eir says 21 payphones have been removed this year amid anti-social behaviour

Dublin man Paul Murphy who works in antique restoration credits the finding and subsequent restoration of an old phone box with, "totally changing his life." Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

The number of public payphones in the Republic of Ireland continues to drop, with just 456 left, compared with almost 4,000 a decade ago.

Payphone usage has declined dramatically in recent years because of the popularity of smartphones.

In 2008, there were more than 3,500 payphones in the Republic of Ireland. The decline started when the company then trading as Eircom put almost 2,000 payphones out of service.

In the past few years, more phone boxes have been removed across the country, with more than a dozen being removed in the past six months.

An Eir spokesman said 21 payphones have been removed so far this year, with requests from councils and continued anti-social behaviour cited as the most common reasons for removal.

There were on average 235 calls from payphones per day in September 2019, equating to on average 0.05 of a call from each payphone daily.

Eir said if a payphone is used for less than one minute a day on average and if emergency services calls do not count for more than 30 seconds of each minute, it can remove it.

The company is set to replace old payphones across Dublin with upgraded versions that will include wifi, interactive touchscreens and information services for tourists.

Eir applied for planning permission earlier this year to upgrade the kiosks in more than 20 locations across the city.

In a statement, Eir said it has agreed a programme with Dublin City Council to improve public payphones at selected locations in Dublin, subject to planning approval.

“The proposed structures are open stand-alone kiosks designed to reduce instances of anti-social behaviour, improve street furniture and provide enhanced services to users including interactive, digital information points.”

Dublin City Council said a decision due date on Eir’s application is January 10th, 2020.

“Twenty-plus planning applications have been submitted to Dublin City Council for the replacement of existing telephone kiosks with new telephone kiosks.

“Each kiosk will have an integral communication unit and a 1.53sq m digital advertising display. The proposed structures will have an overall height [of] 2.43m, a depth of 0.762m and a width [of] 1.096m.”

‘Steady decline’

Independent councillor for Dublin City Council Mannix Flynn said: “We have seen the steady decline of payphones in Dublin city as they have become sites of anti-social behaviour in recent years.

“There has always been the question mark about what we replace the phone boxes [with] and now we see companies applying to use the boxes for marketing purposes when it is in fact a planning issue.”

Mr Flynn said he is concerned the type of technology being proposed in the more than 20 new payphone kiosks will date too quickly.

“We’re going to have 5G and even higher speed broadband coming down the track soon so is there really a need in this day and age for wifi hubs when tourists do everything on their phones?” he said.

“They will end up being vandalised or falling into disrepair and then we are left with the same issue.

“We risk being left with a whole load of boxes with advertising and product placement.”

Mr Flynn said there are very few public conveniences in Dublin city centre and questioned whether this is the best use of the boxes.

“Why are we giving planning permission to a telecommunications company when we don’t have one public lavatory in the city centre?

“It is a question of priorities.” – PA