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'It will be back to car city': Disagreement over reopening of most Phoenix Park gates

All gates bar one reopen from today after closing in March due to pandemic restrictions.

Cyclists last month using a bicycle lane in the Phoenix Park Dublin in place where cars used to park.
Cyclists last month using a bicycle lane in the Phoenix Park Dublin in place where cars used to park.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

THE DECISION TO reopen most entry gates to the Phoenix Park has been described as “incredibly regressive” by Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan.

Yesterday, the Office of Public Works (OPW) announced the gates would be reopening from today after closing in March due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Since then, vehicles have only been able to enter and leave the park at Castleknock and Parkgate Street, with Chesterfield Avenue being used as a through-road for traffic.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Hourigan said resident groups in the area are “absolutely distraught” over the decision to reopen the park to traffic. 

“They have argued long and hard that a park should be a park, it should be a green space,” she said.

“In the next few months, we are going to see children going back to school in the Phoenix Park under very different circumstances – it will be back to car city.”  

Hourigan said as the parent of a child with a disability, it was the “first time I could actually use the park and let her hand go” while there were no cars in the vicinity. 

In recent weeks, there have been calls from locals to continue the closure of the gates so the area can remain relatively free of traffic. 

The OPW yesterday announced the reopening of all perimeter gates to the Phoenix Park, with the exception of Knockmaroon Gate, with effect from today.

Works are currently being carried out on Knockmaroon Gate and it will reopen once these works are completed, the OPW said.

The OPW has been contacted by TheJournal.ie for comment on how the decision was reached to reopen the gates.

Decision

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney, Minister of State for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan, said the decision over the gates was made after discussing issues like a growth of traffic in the surrounding areas over the past few weeks. 

“The volume of traffic built up in adjoining areas has gone up a lot,” he said, adding that there have been an “awful lot of traffic jams” on the western side of the park in particular. 

The decision is hoped to help “find out what impact the reopening was going to have” in relation to these recent bouts of traffic. 

“Whether we like it or not, for an awful lot of people it’s a commuter route,” he said. 

A public consultation on the matter will begin in “the coming weeks”, the Minister of State confirmed. 

I would love to see the traffic volume reduced in the park, I’m committed to trying to work to see how we do that.

“[The Phoenix Park] is the lungs of Dublin, but unfortunately it has also become an artery,” O’Donovan said. 

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Referring to this after the radio interview, Neasa Hourigan said: “It’s not [an artery], it’s a park.” 

Conflicting issue

Fine Gael Senator Emer Currie said people are “conflicted” over the issue of the gates reopening, herself included. 

“People have been very conflicted about the gates and opening and closing them because people want to see what was happening in the park continue during lockdown with the reduction of cars and walking and cycling,” she said. 

Currie said people want the park to be a “sanctuary” as it has been for many during the pandemic. 

“Yes, let’s look at ambitious ideas to reduce cars and I’m in agreement with that, but needs to be part of strategy,” she said. 

I’m asking for some balance and I want us all to work together to improve the cycling and prioritise the walking.

“The park shouldn’t be used as a park and ride for commuters, but we all need to work together on it.” 

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