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Minister tells councils to put more bins in areas where people are gathering

Yesterday saw gardaí clear large numbers of people from St Stephen’s Green as crowds gathered for a second night in a row in Dublin city centre.

Updated May 31st 2021, 2:24 PM

coronavirus-sun-may-30-2021 Gardaí moving people on from St Stephen's Green yesterday Source: Niall Carson via PA Images

THE MINISTER FOR Housing and Local Government has told councils to put more bins in parks and in areas where people are known to gather. 

Minister Darragh O’Brien said the “government has been very clear that this summer will be an outdoor summer”, adding that his department will be meeting with chief executives of local authorities again today to discuss the issues.

However, earlier this morning a Dublin City Council spokesperson said that the provision of extra bins and toilets at busy city centre locations will “drive more footfall and create more of an issue” from a public health perspective.

Yesterday saw gardaí clear large numbers of people from St Stephen’s Green as crowds gathered for a second night in a row in Dublin city centre. A Garda spokesperson said a policing operation was in place in respect of the current public health regulations which limit the numbers attending organised events.

They said a crowd in the South William Street area was dispersed and four people were arrested for public order offences.

Crowds in the Temple Bar and St Stephen’s Green areas were also dispersed by gardaí.

Outdoor summer

This afternoon, Minister O’Brien told The Journal that the message for this summer is for an outdoor summer.

“We have taken steps to help our restaurants and cafés in this regard, including the waiver of the street licence fee this year and waiving the cost and the need for planning permission for awnings and coverings. These measures along with other Government supports will go some way towards helping businesses recover after what has been a very difficult time,” he said.

As regards the issue of littering, he said “we all have a role to play”.

“My Department are meeting with local authorities again today and I have requested that more bins are placed in our parks and in areas where people are gathering as well as an increase in the frequency of those bins being emptied.

“We are working with the Department of Environment who have recently provided €5 million in additional funding for litter prevention and cleaning.

“I do want to pay tribute to the Local Authority teams who have been out all weekend and I would urge people to take personal responsibility too – please take their rubbish home with them,” he said.

The minister said the gardaí have a responsibility for policing the liquor licensing laws and public order generally “and if a situation arises which gives rise to concerns such as big crowds gathering then An Garda Síochána can intervene to prevent a situation getting out of control”.

Areas in Dublin such as Portobello Plaza remain temporarily closed to the public after being shut off earlier this month due to anti-social behaviour reported by locals. 

The scenes from the city centre over the weekend saw many members of the public on social media calling for more public spaces, and more bins and more toilets in public spaces. 

Addressing the issue on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, and noting the situation at Portobello, Dublin City Council’s director of city recovery Coilín O’Reilly raised concerns of what could happen if extra bins and toilets are provided.

“We feel that if we provide toilets and bins at these locations, it’ll only drive more footfall and create more of an issue from a public health perspective,” O’Reilly said. 

If we supply more toilets and bins, does that bring more people in? Do we end up with bigger public health issues? It’s a very difficult situation to manage. 

When asked whether areas such as St Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square should be open later to take pressure off other areas in the city, O’Reilly said:

“I think the primary problem is it’s a public health issue from a mass gathering perspective. So, putting everybody into St Stephen’s Green or Merrion Square doesn’t solve the public health issue.”

coronavirus-sun-may-30-2021 Gardaí on South William Street yesterday Source: Niall Carson via PA Images

O’Reilly confirmed that Dublin City Council was meeting this morning with businesses on South William Street, gardaí and other stakeholders “to see if there’s any actions we can take to improve the situation”.

“We obviously don’t want to shut the city street, I think that will have a detrimental effect for businesses on the street as well as citizens,” he said. 

O’Reilly said he thinks the council will be able to put measures in place next weekend to manage the situation in the city centre, adding:

“In high footfall areas of the city bins are emptied constantly, so we’re going to have to see is there better ways we can do ways we can do to empty those bins or are there others things we can do to put bigger bins on the street or more bins on the street.” 

Rubbish bins

Speaking to The Journal this morning, Dublin City Councillor Kevin Donoghue said he doesn’t “accept the idea that providing more services brings us to a position where we can’t handle the number of people coming into town”. 

“I think if that’s a concern, then the solution to that is to provide more space, not to reduce the service we’re providing,” Donoghue said.

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CEO of Dublin Town, Richard Guiney, said that we “need to look at issues in terms of on-street drinking and people arriving in the city with alcohol”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One, Guiney said that “on St Patrick’s Day, for example, over the last number of years, that kind of on-street drinking has been addressed in a very constructive fashion”.

“I think we can look at things in terms of the licence promises, and they will be able to open from Monday of next week for outdoor patrons,” Guiney said.

But we do need to look at maybe a temporary change in the licencing laws that allows for patrons to be accommodated within a particular space to consume alcohol there and that will identify as well, then people who are perhaps turning up will off-sale alcohol.

“We need to treat people with maturity, provide them with public toilets, provide them with public seating. And I think we need to plan our cities now – how people are using cities was changing before the pandemic, and post-pandemic those changes are going to be very evident.”

In a statement to The Journal, Dublin City Council said it will be engaging with a number of other city stakeholders this week to discuss the issues around large public gatherings in the city centre over the weekend. 

The council said the “outcome of these meetings and what, if any, measures should be taken by the City Council will be announced in due course”. 

“Dublin City Council is keep to play its part in keeping all the citizens of Dublin safe and would like to remind the public that gatherings of the size and nature seen over the weekend are contrary to public health regulations,” the council said. 

Figures from 28 April show that there are currently 3,217 bins located in Dublin City Council. 

Between January and 28 April, the council installed 10 BigBelly bins and 20 more bins were to be installed before the end of May. 

In a statement at the time, DCC said every request for additional bins is reviewed and a determination is made on the suitability of a bin at the requested location. 

The council said factors taken into account include the proximity of other bins, whether it’s a shopping/takeaway location, whether the location is primarily used by local residents and whether there’s a history of misuse or vandalism at the location. 

O’Reilly added the council is “very keen” to provide an outdoor summer, but added:

The problem is, what is the definition of an outdoor summer? From our point of view that’s the street interventions we’re putting in, the facilitation of outdoor dining, the hundreds of street furniture licences we’ve been issuing in the last few weeks and working with businesses to get them out onto the street.

Pubs and restaurants are set to reopen for outdoor services from 7 June. 

With reporting by Press Association, Cónal Thomas, Christina Finn and Lauren Boland

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