An outdoor summer?

 

Sir, – As the weather improves, it seems wrong that An Garda Síochána is proposing further closures of public spaces in Dublin due to crowds. This follows on from the fencing-off of Portobello Plaza to the public due to anti-social activity.

Of course, residents need protection from people sitting on and then urinating on their doorsteps, but proper management, more public space and better facilities are surely the answers rather than a shutdown.

In Brussels, the city has provided more public seating, public spaces, and drinking fountains in recent years. Some 29 urinals and 14 toilets are currently available, with another eight in the pipeline. They have also rolled out temporary toilets in black spots. Public space management is also crucial. On Sunday, I saw a council worker with a bin trolley pick up every last piece of litter, including cigarette butts, from a crowded square. In addition, uniformed “Gardiens de la paix”, or peace guardians, patrol public squares and provide low-level public-order security and advice.

Belgium is by no means perfect, but there are lessons to be learned. Our own council staff do great work in Dublin, but they need additional resources and vision from management to manage the outdoors on sunny days.

If ever there was an argument for Dublin City Council appointing a public-realm tsar to oversee our public spaces, then the threatened sealing-off of parts of our city from the public should be the rallying cry. Such a figure could also plan and manage city-centre improvements, including more car-free streets, greenery, and seating where one can sit down for free without having to purchase a drink.

After a long hard winter, our young people deserve a break, and the opportunity to socialise safely in the fresh air outside. – Yours, etc,

CIARÁN CUFFE, MEP

(Dublin Constituency),

Green Party,

Stoneybatter,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – Having endured one of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns, it’s understandable that people are anxious to meet up again.

We’ve been told by Nphet since last February that the summer is outdoors, but the latest episode of apoplexy over seeing people socialise outdoors shows how woefully unprepared we are for such a season.

Disappointingly, local councils have not invested in extra bins, toilets, seating areas and crowd-control measures, and have now resorted to closing major public spaces, leading to tighter congestion elsewhere.

And, like clockwork, every weekend the curtain-twitchers are out in full force with their camera phones filming outrageous scenes of people gathering outdoors, and possibly even enjoying themselves.

Then cue the barrage of calls and texts to radio shows, endless tweeting and fury on the news. Sadly our chief medical officer jumped on the finger-wagging bandwagon this weekend, and media outlets have been reporting essentially nothing else ever since.

An outdoor summer was never something we were ready for as a country, both logistically and emotionally. And people may now be driven indoors, where the real danger of Covid-19 becomes apparent. – Yours, etc,

STEPHEN O’REILLY,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The tut-tutting at those socialising outdoors is as boring as it is infuriating.

The youth of this country has one again borne the brunt of a crisis, which is only exacerbated by the other issues the previous generations have facilitated for us.

For one, many people in their twenties and thirties were left disproportionately out of work, while being locked out of a housing market in terms of both renting and home ownership. This has meant many people were living with their parents, and under extreme pressure to not infect their more vulnerable family members.

With increased vaccination of people in their fifties and sixties, it is no surprise to see people socialising more as they will feel they can do so without risking making their parents sick.

Instead of chastising at every turn, maybe it should be asked why so few of these people have gardens of their own where they could meet their friends? Or why there are so few facilities available which make socialising outdoors possible?

Maybe those doing the criticising should reflect on the policies they voted for over the years, leading to this perfect storm. – Yours, etc,

COLM DOYLE,

Stoneybatter,

Dublin 7.

A chara, – Tens of thousands of people live in Dublin city. Most of these people live in apartments. They have no large back gardens to sit in on a sunny day, and they rely on the streets and parks of the city for outdoor space.

Many of these people are in their twenties and thirties. For over a year, their social lives have been limited by the need to prevent the spread of Covid. And most young people have gone along with this. Although they have had a low risk of serious health consequences, they have accepted restrictions to save the lives of older generations.

The disgraceful thing about the weekend scenes is the extent to which we have let these people down. We have pedestrianised streets, and opened takeaway food, but there is no public seating. Pubs can sell pints, but we have no public toilets. Yes, people should be more responsible with their rubbish, but we should provide many more bins in the city.

We know that the risk of transmitting Covid is much higher indoors than outdoors. So why are we trying to drive people indoors? – Is mise,

RAY CUNNINGHAM,

Walkinstown,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – The youth of Ireland’s dutiful adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines since March 2020 must have been the single greatest act of intergenerational solidarity in our country’s history, and how are their elders repaying them?

Demonisation across the media, being chased around and fined by gardaí for Government-recommended outdoor socialisation, and the closure of the public spaces that those without a cosy suburban garden need in order to actually enjoy an “outdoor summer”. A more common-sense approach is needed from local authorities and An Garda Síochána – think bins, toilet facilities, extended opening hours for parks and other outdoor spaces, and policing that does not seek to criminalise those attempting to socialise safely outdoors. – Yours, etc,

ORLA HEATLEY,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Who would have thought that easing restrictions would lead people to think that restrictions were being eased. – Yours, etc,

EUGENE TANNAM,

Firhouse,

Dublin 24.