Martin calls for better outdoor facilities as councils asked to provide more bins

Stephen’s Green bandstand fenced off as authorities deal with backlash to crowds

Members of gardaí enforcing coronavirus restrictions last Sunday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Members of gardaí enforcing coronavirus restrictions last Sunday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Local authorities around the country will be asked to put extra bins and toilets on city streets after a backlash following on-street drinking and congregation last weekend.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien confirmed that his department has recently met the County and City Management Agency (CCMA) on the issue of littering.

In a statement, he said the department had requested that where necessary, “local authorities increase the number of rubbish bins and the frequency of collection, as well as increase the number of temporary toilets available”.

“Government have been very clear that this summer will be an outdoor summer,” he said, adding that steps had been taken to assist restaurants and cafes, and that “the issue of littering is one which we all have a role to play in”.

‘Visible presence’

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said it had contacted local authorities to offer funding for the additional servicing of bins in place and a “visible staff presence at main litter pressure points to help in monitoring, reporting deterrence”.

This was being done “to deal with the increase in public gatherings in the short term”.

The provision of facilities was welcomed by Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu, who said she was glad to see the direction from the Minister.

“We have been asking for people to come into the city to support local businesses and we need to provide facilities for those who come in whether to shop or to socialise,” she said.

She said many people did not have gardens in which to meet others and there was a need to provide “safe, serviced public space for people to socialise safety”, while also calling for increased monitoring from the Garda to ensure areas do not become overcrowded.

A spokeswoman for Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said he was a “strong advocate of a safe outdoor summer”, and that a €5 million fund had been established from which councils can claim refunds for work done, while there have been more than 40 applications to the Department of Transport for a €15 million fund for pedestrianisation, traffic management and road space reallocation.

It comes after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan sharply criticised scenes he observed in Dublin city centre last Saturday evening, saying he was “absolutely shocked” at “enormous crowds – like a major open air party. This is what we do not need when we have made so much progress”. On Wednesday, Dr Holohan doubled down on his comments, saying that “if you get a large crowd in a small area, in close physical contact, that will present opportunities for transmission”.

Vandalism

It is understood Dublin City Council expressed concerns to the Government over on-street drinking in the capital, and sought clear instruction on what it should do over the issue. The council is understood to have told officials that it was reluctant to do anything that would be seen to encourage on-street drinking and large congregations.

On Wednesday evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said better facilities should be provided for people outdoors and streets should be redesigned.

Speaking at the weekly Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting Mr Martin said there was a need to “be creative within cities and urban areas”.

Mr Martin told the meeting that the Government will work with councils to progress street redesigns.

He also said that councils should do “proactive, inclusive and impactful street design to help build better urban space in our cities.”

Speaking to the Fianna Fáil meeting about the situation around Covid-19, Mr Martin said the Government is “driving on” with the reopening of society and said what is reopened must stay reopened.

The bandstand in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green which has been fenced off. Photograph: Alan Betson
The bandstand in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green which has been fenced off. Photograph: Alan Betson

Meanwhile, the Office of Public Works has erected a fence around the Victorian bandstand in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green to protect it from vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

“The OPW is liaising with An Garda Síochána in relation to the policing of St Stephen’s Green on an ongoing basis and will respond to any incidents should they arise,” it said.

The Port of Cork has decided to fence off sections of the city quays in the interests of public safety after some areas became popular spots for outdoor drinking attracting large crowds.

It will fence off areas around any berthed commercial vessels, around plant or port equipment generally stored on the quayside and around cargo stored on the quays. Fencing will be erected this week, ahead of the bank holiday weekend and remain in place until further notice.