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Green councillors want a team of 'night marshals' to monitor popular outdoor gathering spots

These night marshals would be separate from Gardaí and would look out for anti-social behaviour in these popular areas.

Dublin City Council shut Portobello Plaza in Dublin last weekend, due to large numbers of people engaging in
Dublin City Council shut Portobello Plaza in Dublin last weekend, due to large numbers of people engaging in "unacceptable" behaviour along the Grand Canal in recent weekends.
Image: Leah Farrell

GREEN PARTY COUNCILLORS have called for new ‘night marshals’ to watch for anti-social behaviour at popular outdoor gathering spots in Dublin. 

Green councillors in Dublin City Council (DCC), have called on the council to employ night marshals to “monitor after hours usage of public spaces and encourage pro-social behaviour and civic-mindedness.”

This comes in the context of an ongoing debate on how to properly manage popular gathering spots, following the closing of Portobello Plaza by the council last weekend due to serious anti-social behaviour reported by residents.

According to Councillor Janet Horner, Green Party representative for the North-Inner City, these night marshals would be a non-police presence who would “can recognise when things are starting to get out of control” and then control the situation.

The marshals, it’s planned, would encourage people to put their litter away, notice if the bins are overflowing and, if they are, “getting them to be taken away” by working with the Waste Collection Section in DCC.

Horner says this would be one way to curb anti-social behaviour at gathering spots instead of shutting public spaces down, as was done in Portobello Plaza last Friday.

All nine Green councillors wrote a letter to DCC on 29 April with recommendations for the reopening of the city post-Covid, containing the recommendation of night marshals. 

In a responding letter from 7 May, Owen Keegan, CEO of DCC, said the Council doesn’t have “the statutory powers or the trained personnel to deal with these issues” and said there is no funding available for the employment of night marshals.

However, he also said that if funding were available, he is “reluctant” for DCC to assume responsibility for dealing with any anti-social behaviour or public order offences. He said that matter rests with Gardaí.

“Which is just hypocritical, really,” said Horner.

“He’s saying that he does not want the city council to assume responsibility for dealing with anti-social behaviour or public order offences. But that’s exactly what they’ve done in shutting down the Portobello Square.”

Horner said that discussions with DCC management about how to handle anti-social behaviour are still ongoing.

Meanwhile, there have been many calls from councillors across the political divide to have better and increased facilities at popular outdoor gathering spots – with some representatives calling for parks to be allowed open longer. 

“When our public parks close, they literally just move from them up towards the canal,” said Councillor Claire Byrne, Green Party representative for the South-East-Inner City.

“And it’s up and down the whole canal, right from Grand Canal Dock, all the way up to and a little bit beyond as well.”

Fine Gael councillor for the North-Inner City Ray McAdam said that increased visible Garda presence is needed and should be deployed as part of a city-wide approach, “particularly between now and the June Bank Holiday”.

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“We have to ensure that if we’re going to encourage and entice and attract people into our city centre they feel safe,” he said.

A strong Garda presence, he said, “would be able to attack and alleviate any problems with antisocial behaviour that occur”.

Horner said that she believed that a police presence wouldn’t allow people to relax and that the night marshals should be non-police.

“It’s about encouraging the positive behaviour for people if they’re having a few cans by the canal or wherever they might be,” she said.

“The best way to tackle anti-social behaviour is with pro-social behaviour.”

With one popular area closing and others remaining open even across weekends, she called for a uniform policy – but one that keeps public spaces open.

“A lot of those places are not exclusively drinking spots by any means,” she said.

“They’re also places where children play, they’re places where people go for their exercise.

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