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Pledge that new nightclub closing times will mean expanded late-night public transport

Justice Minister Helen McEntee says a taskforce is examining the expansion of late-night public transport for when nightclubs get the green light to stay open later.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

JUSTICE MINISTER HELEN McEntee has said part of her plan to overhaul the country’s licensing laws also includes ensuring that “it’s safe that people can get to and from our towns and cities and villages” after a night out. 

The minister told The Journal that she will be bringing forward a bill to Cabinet in the autumn that will give the green light for nightclubs and pubs to open late into the night. 

The legislation, which she says she plans to enact “as quickly as possible”, is part of the overall night time economy task force, which is being led by Tourism Minister Catherine Martin.

“It’s not just about making sure that we have a vibrant and open night time economy but that it’s safe that people can get to and from our towns and cities and villages,” said McEntee.

The National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport are key members of that task force, said McEntee, adding that there is ongoing work relating to “public transport late at night” once the new law comes into place. 

She said expanded public transport services across the board will be needed once the new law is enacted. 

There are “strands of work and committees” looking at “how we expand our services, to not just the Luas, but Dublin Bus, our buses outside of the main city and also looking at taxis, which I know is a problem at the moment and has been perhaps more of a problem since post Covid”.

Late-night Luas

Her comments come after the National Transport Authority (NTA) told The Journal that for now it has ruled out running Luas services past 1am.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan asked the authority in June to examine the prospect of running late-night Luas services.

Currently the Luas does not operate between 1am and 5am.

An NTA spokesperson has told The Journal that the NTA and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) recently examined the prospect of the Luas operating during later hours but have concluded that extending services significantly “is not something that should be progressed at this point”. 

The reason cited by the NTA for not rolling out late night services is that essential maintenance on the likes of overhead cable systems, rail works and cleaning “can only be carried out when all trams are out of service”. 

If the nightly window for that preventative maintenance work is reduced, it could result in a diminution of services at other times of the week, they said.

With the justice minister pressing ahead with her plans for later opening hours, questions are now being asked about how people will get home in the early hours of the morning if there is no public transport provided.  

Labour transport spokesperson Duncan Smith told The Journal:

“We need an ever improving 24 hour service across all our public transport providers including LUAS. LUAS carries an average of 120,000 passengers per day which highlights how important a carrier it is in the transportation infrastructure of Dublin.

“The late night and early hours requirements which will be needed to meet the demand from new licensing laws cannot be met by Bus and taxi only. LUAS and other rail services need to meet the demands of our ever changing society”.

Late opening hours

The justice minister said she plans to enact new licensing laws this year to allow for nightclubs and pubs to remain open into the early hours of the morning. 

Speaking about expanding public transport services alongside the new licensing laws, she said “all of this work is happening together. Members from my departments, myself included, are part of that task force. So everything that I do and everything that we do, we are doing collectively and working together and there’s a huge amount of joined up thinking”.

McEntee has previously said new licensing laws will “reflect the changing expectations and lifestyles of 21st century Ireland”.

The idea of later opening hours for nightclubs was first floated by Varadkar back in 2019, when he told The Journal that he believed the laws needed to be reformed and brought more in line with other cities in Europe. 

With additional reporting from Tadgh McNally

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