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Portobello Plaza will no longer be closed off at weekends

Documents show local residents had complained to the council about issues including “public urination, defecation, open selling and use of drugs”.

The Portobello Plaza fenced off during weekends.
The Portobello Plaza fenced off during weekends.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

DUBLIN’S PORTOBELLO PLAZA will now stay open after it was fenced off for several weekends due to what the council described as “completely unacceptable” behaviour.

On 14 May, Dublin City Council said it fenced off the area which has outdoor seating due to anti-social behaviour and thousands gathering in the vicinity. 

The Portobello Plaza has been a spot for socialising both before and during the pandemic, particularly at the weekend during spells of good weather. 

It had been closed off for a number of weekends since, but a spokesperson for the DCC said today that the plaza “has already re-opened and there are no further closures planned at this time”. 

“It was always intended to be a temporary measure, acting as a circuit breaker and was communicated as such. It was removed each Monday and was removed as normal. Therefore there was no need for a separate announcement,” the spokesperson added. 

Independent councillor in the area Mannix Flynn welcomed the end of the temporary closure of the plaza at weekends. 

He said there was “no fanfare” planned around the announcement the plaza would stay open.

Dozens of people were arrested in Dublin over the weekend after discord between gardaí and some people gathering outdoors.

‘We see people urinating across the street multiple times a day’

In documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, local Portobello residents had contacted the council in recent months to express their concern over scenes near the canal during periods of sunny weather in particular. 

One woman said that over the weekend of 8-9 May, she “could still hear people screaming and shouting” while wearing earplugs. 

“From about Thursday to Sunday we see people urinating across the street multiple times a day, we see people getting arrested, we have people trying to offer us money to use our bathroom, we see and hear fights escalating,” she said. 

“To add to all of that, as a woman I don’t feel comfortable going outside after a certain time at the weekend.”

She said these occurrences are “tolerable if they happen the odd time”, but “it’s just a constant thing every weekend”.

I pay my rent to see people relieving themselves every time I look out the window? It’s disgusting.

“I’m not fully sure what needs to be done to make this situation better but I do think that public toilets would be a welcome start.”

This is a sentiment echoed in many emails sent to politicians and officials. 

Another resident wrote to express alarm at the “total lack of action” in “counteracting the extreme antisocial behaviour in Portobello”.

They said this “involves public urination, defecation, open selling and use of drugs, graffiti, smashing glass bottles, drinking etc.”

The person gave examples of such behaviour, including his wife confronting “a man urinating beside our house during the day”.

They said this man turned towards his wife “and sprayed urine in her direction while telling her to ‘f*** off”. 

Another person said a Portobello Harbour resident told them that Friday 7 May was “the worst night ever in portobello harbour in terms of drinking, rowdiness and urination”. 

“The harbour is hellish for residents living there,” they said. “The only thing to be done now is to close Portobello Harbour down.”

“It’s hard to believe a small area could be so badly mismanaged,” another person said about the plaza.

“Please can someone reply as I would like to speak to someone/anyone in DCC or anyone that will actually do something about the constant noise and antisocial behaviour outside my home as I’m sick of having to keep the blinds down and windows closed because of all the skateboarding… and the urinating by men and women outside my door and window,” they added. 

‘Lazy and myopic’

The council also got many emails from people complaining about the closure of the plaza, with one saying “what universe are you living in”.

Another said “How lazy and myopic is the decision to fence off one of the rare public spaces in the city?”

A Portobello resident described the closure as a “regressive intervention” and said they haven’t “witnessed any anti-social or threatening behaviour beyond people going to the toilet which I grant is unpleasant” 

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Another person said there is a “serious lack of outdoor spaces for people to gather” in the city. 

I am currently 27. From the age of 19 I have been socialising along the canal. Never once have I seen proper planning put in place around this area. I emigrated for 4 years. I have returned home and nothing has changed. You have failed the city.

One Portobello resident said “the idea that fencing off the Harbour will address anti-social behaviour in the area is frankly absurd, all this will do is displace outdoor gatherings”.

Another person, who said they were “disappointed” the plaza was fenced off, said: “Dublin is losing all of its charm and all of the things that made it special and unique. It’s no longer a fun city”. 

“I remember myself in Dublin it was either buy 4 cans for a fiver and sit by the canal or pay over 5 quid for one drink in a pub? I’ll take the canal, thanks.”

Another person accused the council of treating “Dublin residents like a parent taking a toy from a petulant child”. 

One person described “handmade signs I found this morning literally directing people to urinate outside houses on a residential street at the harbour”.

One person wrote: “You cannot close down every public space. We are told this is an outdoor summer, you need to facilitate that.” 

A few people criticised the barriers as being difficult to get around with a buggy, with one saying she would have to change her route home from her child’s creche as a result of their installment. 

One woman said that “every other European city I have ever visited has had more outdoor spaces for the public and care and consideration has gone into making these spaces attractive and welcoming”.

In April, one person wrote to the council to say Portobello has “conditions similar to that of slums and areas in the world that do not have sanitation”.

“Every time I opened my door to throw a bucket of water outside it to wash down the urine there was someone urinating against the wall,” they said. 

Additional reporting by Cónal Thomas.

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