Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.24 4 Jun 2021


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The answer to over-crowding in outdoor spaces is not to fence areas off, but to provide more of them.

That is according to Green Party MEP for Dublin Ciarán Cuffe, who says local authorities should create more public spaces by closing off areas to traffic.

It follows chaotic scenes last weekend in Dublin, Cork and Galway - where large crowds gathered in city centres resulting in anti-social behaviour and littering.

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Local authorities nationwide are to get a share of €4m to provide additional bins and toilets.

Mr Cuffe told Pat Kenny that there needs to be a centralised figure to oversee this.

"I think Dublin City Council, and local authorities around Ireland, are doing their best.

"But sometimes their efforts are a bit uncoordinated - and it comes down to the role of local government.

"They're in charge of parks, they're in charge of street cleansing, they're in charge of planning.

"But I think, particularly in Dublin, there should be somebody who knocks heads together and is an identifiable figure who would manage and coordinate our public spaces."

'Low-level public order'

Using Brussels as an example, he said Ireland could employ people to look after these public spaces.

"The lesson from Brussels is you actually have people employed to keep an eye on these spaces.

"They're called the Gardiens de la Paix - or The Peace Guardians - and they patrol the public squares, the parks.

"They provide low-level public order, not really 'policing', but kind of security advice."

He said while they do not have powers of arrest, they can bring in the police.

But Mr Cuffe said a comparison between similar roles in Ireland and the rest of Europe is unfair.

"Our local authorities in Ireland are very under-resourced compared to their continental counterparts.

"They don't have the kind of staff that you see here in Brussels, they don't have the responsibilities that you see in other countries.

"But even still, I think they could do better."

He said the decision to roll out 150 public toilets and bins across the capital is "a step in the right direction".

The portable toilets and extra bins are to be provided across the city from this bank holiday weekend.

'We should take cars out'

And Mr Cuffe said the answer to crowd control is not to just fence certain areas off.

"I think the answer to overcrowded public spaces is not to fence them off, but to provide more of them.

"And I think the evidence is limited on outdoor transmission of COVID-19.

"We lived through a difficult winter when we told people to stay indoors, but then Micheál Martin said a month ago that we shall have an outdoor summer.

"So I think it would be a bit of a u-turn and a step in the wrong direction to continue to fence off these spaces - I think we should just provide more of them.

"South William Street is a good example, where you still allow cars and parking on that street.

"I think we should take the cars out, I think we should have more car-free public spaces in Dublin.

"I jokingly said we need a public realm czar in a piece I wrote for The Journal, but really what I meant is the buck has to stop with somebody.

"Somebody who makes sure that there is enough cleansing, that there is enough toilets - and that there isn't the kind of crowds we saw in some areas.

"If that means temporarily closing off some street, well so be it".

Dublin needs public spaces manger 'who knocks heads together' - Cuffe

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Composite image shows empty streets and shuttered spaces on Dublin's South William Street and Dublin Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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Ciaran Cuffe Cork Dublin Galway Gardiens De La Paix Green Party MEP Pat Kenny Public Spaces Manager Public Squares South William Street

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