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Phoenix Park side gates closure sparked complaints after two hour traffic delay

The OPW had made the move to shut down the side gates of the famous park at weekends.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE OFFICE OF Public Works was inundated with complaints after commuters, medical personnel, and people providing essential services were delayed for up to two hours due to the closure of side gates in the Phoenix Park.

The OPW had made the move to shut down the side gates of the famous park at weekends following discussions with the gardaí and in the interests of public safety.

However, on 22 November, the park was exceptionally busy, causing traffic chaos within and for people living in the vicinity.

In an email to gardaí, the OPW said the reopening of the gates needed to be considered, or other measures including checkpoints or garda control of junctions.

The message said that in the region of 500,000 people lived in the 5 kilometre zone around the Phoenix Park and that there was a lack of suitable alternative outdoor options for many.

It said: “We received numerous complaints from the public, employees, medical personnel, and those providing essential services such as hot food deliveries to the needy.”

The OPW said there had been a small number of complaints following the original weekend closure of the gates in early November.

However, this came to a head on 22 November due to good weather when delays of up to two hours were being reported in trying to exit the park.

They said this had been eased somewhat after Dublin City Council were contacted to change traffic light sequences for the gates at Castleknock and Parkgate Street.

An email said: “While I appreciate that public safety must be to the forefront in any risk assessment, consideration needs to be given to those accessing and exiting the Park also.”

The OPW said the side gate closures were having negligible impact on people coming to the park, only on their ability to leave.

They asked if stricter controls should be put in place outside the main park entrances to ensure people were not travelling further than 5km.

“If good weather is forecasted for the upcoming weekend,” they said, “we will have a repeat of yesterday.”

They suggested possible options were reopening gates, checkpoints at both main entrances, a media information campaign, traffic light sequence changes, and garda control of junctions if traffic levels “escalate”.

Following discussions with gardaí, it was agreed that the gates would remain closed for the next weekend, according to internal records.

However, new measures would be put in place including changes to traffic lights and gardaí stepping in to direct traffic if needed.

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“Park staff will monitor the situation on the ground and will liaise with the relevant authorities during the course of the weekend, should it be warranted,” said an email.

The OPW said a further review would take place pending the government’s new roadmap for Covid-19 restrictions over the Christmas period.

The records also confirm that the original request for the gate closure was made by gardaí in the “interest of public safety”.

An email from Chief Supt Finbarr Murphy said: “I will ensure that An Garda Síochána will have static checkpoints on Chesterfield Avenue [the park’s main road] with the purpose of dissuading those from outside the 5k limit from visiting the park.”

In a statement, the OPW said they raised their concerns because of the “really high volumes” experienced on the weekend of 21 and 22 November.

“There were safety concerns particularly in relation to the side roads and the mix of cars, cyclists, pedestrians, families with buggies, [people] walking dogs etc and the volumes concentrated in those areas,” they said.

They said demand for the Phoenix Park and the 480,000 people living within 5km was directly limited to the level of restrictions in place.

A statement added: “At Level 3 for example, people can travel within their county and we would see a dispersal of people to other popular destinations including St Anne’s Park, Dublin Mountains, Sandymount, Dollymount Strand etc.”

About the author:

Ken Foxe

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