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Less than 500 public payphones are left in Ireland – a drop from 4,000 a decade ago

There were 4,000 public payphones across the country 10 years ago.

An Eircom phone box in Dublin's city centre.
An Eircom phone box in Dublin's city centre.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

THE NUMBER OF public payphones in Ireland continues to drop with just 456 left, compared to almost 4,000 a decade ago.

Payphone usage has declined dramatically in recent years because of the popularity of smartphones.

In 2008, there were more than 3,500 payphones in Ireland with the decline starting when the company began trading as Eircom and put almost 2,000 payphones out of service.

In the past few years, more phone boxes have been removed around the country with more than a dozen being removed in the past six months  – there were 468 public payphones in July 2019 compared to 456 now.

An Eir spokesman said 21 payphones have been removed so far this year with requests from council and continued anti-social behaviour cited as the most common reason for removal.

There were on average 235 calls per day in September 2019 equating to on average 0.05 calls from each payphone daily.

Eir said if a payphone is used for less than one minute a day on average and if emergency services calls do not count for more than 30 seconds of each minute, it can remove it.

The company is set to replace old payphones around Dublin with upgraded versions that will include Wi-Fi, interactive touchscreens and information services for tourists.

Eir applied for planning permission earlier this year to upgrade the kiosks in more than 20 locations around the city.

In a statement, Eir said it has agreed a programme with Dublin City Council to improve public payphones at selected locations in Dublin, subject to planning approval.

“The proposed structures are open stand-alone kiosks designed to reduce instances of anti-social behaviour, improve street furniture and provide enhanced services to users including interactive, digital information points.”

Dublin City Council said a decision due date on Eir’s application is 10 January, 2020.

“Twenty plus planning applications have been submitted to Dublin City Council for the replacement of existing telephone kiosks with new telephone kiosks.”

“Each kiosk will have an integral communication unit and a 1.53 square metre digital advertising display. The proposed structures will have an overall height 2.43 metres, a depth of 0.762 metres and a width 1.096 metres.”

‘Priorities’

Independent councillor for Dublin City Council Mannix Flynn said: “We have seen the steady decline of payphones in Dublin city as they have become sites of anti-social behaviour in recent years.”

“There has always been the question mark about what we replace the phone boxes and now we see companies applying to use the boxes for marketing purposes when it is in fact a planning issue,” he added. 

Flynn said he is concerned the type of technology being proposed in the 20 pay phone kiosks will date too quickly.

“We’re going to have 5G and even higher speed broadband coming down the track soon so is there really a need in this day and age for WiFi hubs when tourists do everything on their phones?” he said.

“They will end up being vandalised or falling into disrepair and then we are left with the same issue.

“We risk being left with a whole load of boxes with advertising and product placement.”

Flynn said there are very few public conveniences in Dublin city centre and questioned whether this is the best use of the boxes.

“Why are we giving planning permission to a telecommunications company when we don’t have one public lavatory in the city centre?

“It is a question of priorities.”

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