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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 7 April, 2020
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Should you enter a public park after dark? Dublin City Council says it's 'common sense' not to

Councillors asked if extra lights could be added to some parks. The council said this would “give a false sense of safety”.

Image: Shutterstock/Jiri Stochl

SHOULD YOU ENTER a public park after dark?

Adding extra lighting to city parks, even if the gates in these parks are always open, would “not be appropriate” according to Dublin City Council.

Furthermore, the council says it does not encourage anyone to enter into a public park after dark.

A council spokesperson to TheJournal.ie further clarified that it’s “common sense” that people shouldn’t enter a park after dark. 

Although reports have highlighted the problem of anti-social behaviour in Dublin’s parks, public representatives believe that more should be done to tackle the root causes of this rather than simply directing people away from frequenting parks.

At a meeting of the council’s south east area committee last month, two councillors asked similar questions relating to lighting in parks.

Sinn Féin’s Chris Andrews, a newly elected TD, asked: “Bearing in mind the gates in Sundrive Park are open 24/7, can the manager arrange to have lighting put in place in Sundrive Park as it is very dark and feels unsafe in the evenings and gates are open and dog owners find it difficult to pick up dog poo in the dark.”

The Green Party’s Hazel Chu, meanwhile, issued this request for a reply: “To ask the Manager to consider installing solar powered lights along pathways in Herbert Park.”

In both instances, the councillors were issued with the same reply from the council.

It said: “It would not be appropriate to provide public lighting within a park as this would give a false sense of safety, and encourage use after dark.

Dublin City Council does not encourage anyone to enter into a public park after dark.

In response to a query from TheJournal.ie, a council spokesperson said: “It is common sense that people should not enter a park after dark as there is always the potential for anti-social activity. The gardai are aware of potential problem areas and monitor the situation in cooperation with DCC.”

Anti-social behaviour

Public parks’ closing times vary depending on the time of year, and usually close earlier in the winter. Anti-social behaviour in these parks is not a new phenomenon.

Such behaviour had led to the closure of Peace Park in the city centre near Christchurch Cathedral, before its re-opening last summer. 

The council said at the time that sprucing up old parks “usually displace[s] the anti-social behaviour”. 

Councillor Mannix Flynn told TheJournal.ie that the public “are not going to accept” anti-social behaviour at the park. He added that there “should be zero tolerance to people who’d interfere with our parks and have them closed down”.

A report published late last year by University of Limerick lecturer Johnny Connolly titled Building Community Resilience highlighted a failure from gardaí to respond to calls when people report serious issues, “especially anti-social behaviour in local parks”. 

After an analysis of the local policing fora in south central Dublin which features local representatives as well as council officials and the gardaí, some common themes were identified by Connolly.

They included: “Inadequate garda numbers, low visibility and failure to respond to calls, especially about anti-social behaviour in parks.

Hotspots, particularly public parks where there tends to be a high concentration of drug dealing and consumption, youths drinking, setting fires, illegal dumping, burning of refuse and animal maltreatment.

Connolly added there was also a “sense of repeated frustration that these behaviours would not be tolerated in more affluent areas”. 

‘They should be lighting up parks’

But do the problems in some of Dublin’s parks mean that people shouldn’t enter them at night?

“It’s a shame because anyone who works 9-5 is effectively excluded from visiting public parks during the winter,” Dublin Bay South TD Chris Andrews told TheJournal.ie

Andrews said that the issue was raised with him by a constituent who frequented the local park after dark where gates were kept open, but the lack of lighting meant they could barely see in front of them when walking their dog. 

“I find it remarkable,” he said. “If they leave the gates open, the public are invited to use it.

The reality is that if there is anti-social behaviour, they [the council] have a responsibility to make the environment safe. They should be lighting up parks. 

Andrews said the public parks across Dublin City Council jurisdiction are a “fantastic amenity”, and cited Ringsend Park with flood lit facilities, and the promenade in Sandymount as a “lovely facility” that locals enjoy before and after dark.

“Nobody expects it to be done overnight, it’ll need to be done incrementally, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t put a strategy in place to light up parks,” he added.

Councillor Hazel Chu told TheJournal.ie that while most parks close after dark with the time dependent on what season of the year it is, some parks do remain open after hours for various activities and events. 

Commenting on the council’s advice of not entering parks after dark, she said she “knows why they’re saying that” given the potential for anti-social behaviour when the sun goes down. 

Initially, she thought asking for solar-powered lights for Herbert Park would be a “no brainer” but said that the advice not to visit parks after darks could be an indication “we’re not utilising our parks properly”.

“A lot of the time, the council tends to be straight on,” she said, adding that it would be better to look at the root causes of this anti-social behaviour and taking measures to tackle it. 

I used to live in New York where parks were open 24/7 and yes, there were elements of anti-social behaviour, but public parks are fantastic amenities too when utilised well. We need to start looking at what we could do better. 

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Sean Murray

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