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Council considers 'retail-based' model to provide public toilets in Dublin city centre

Councillors say Dublin City Council should already be providing public toilets in the city centre.

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL is examining proposals to provide public toilets in Dublin city centre by contracting a third party to operate them. 

According to a council spokesperson, this “serviced retail-based model” is in place in other European cities and the authority is currently examining if a similar provision is viable in Dublin City.

Under this model, public toilets are located at shopfront level with serviced, attended facilities provided, they said.

In addition, the council is considering providing additional standalone structures in Dublin – similar to ones currently in place at Sandymount and Clontarf. 

Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown, told TheJournal.ie that his organisation has discussed public toilets with Dublin City Council officials for over 10 years. 

Guiney said that he favours a model by which a facilities company provides public toilets in Dublin on behalf of the council. The public, Guiney said, could pay a small fee of 50c per use. 

“It’s an issue for older folks and people with kids,” he said. “I really do think people will pay, even a small amount on your card you could tap.”

‘Public Conveniences’ 

Councillors, meanwhile, have said Dublin City Council should already be providing public toilets in the city centre, similar to other European cities. 

In Berlin and Amsterdam, pissoirs or “pop-up” urinals are in place around the city while in other European cities, like Lille in France, standalone, shop-front level toilets are operated by an attendant with the public charged 70c per use. 

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn said the council closed down Dublin’s original public toilets “under the guise of anti-social behaviour” and told TheJournal.ie that Dublin is “unique” in its lack of public toilets. 

“Public conveniences work,” said Flynn. “[In Europe] public toilets are a normal convenience. Dublin City Council, as the Local Authority, are obliged to provide.”

TOILET Gateway into the public convenience on Kevin St. Source: Aoife Barry/TheJournal.ie

In 2017 and 2018, the Council spent nearly €100,000 providing temporary public toilets for major events in the city centre. 

In December, however, it said there were a number of factors that make providing even temporary public toilets difficult, including identification of suitable locations that won’t impede pedestrians or create difficulties for local businesses.

The Dublin City Development Plan, however, states that council policy is “to provide accessible public toilets and showers if appropriate in locations close to the central business district and in city parks”. 

In the 1980s and 1990s Dublin’s underground toilet facilities – many of which were built c.1900 – gradually became used for drug injection and were subsequently closed by council staff. 

In 2015, it was reported by the Irish Examiner that it cost Cork County Council €250,000 annually to maintain just nine public toilets in and around the county.

In 2016, it was reported that the total cost of maintaining four public toilets in Kildare over a 20-year period would amount to €3 million.

Last year, the council set aside €200,000 to provide two public toilets. In 2018, it spent €32,000 on portable toilets having spent €52,000 in 2017.

public-urinals-for-women-toulouse Toulouse, France testing the first mobile public urinals for women in December 2019. Source: Batard Patrick/ABACA

Last year, Green Party Councillor Lawrence Hemmings asked could the council provide at least two standalone public toilets in each of the council’s 11 electoral areas.

The council, however, said the cost of providing such facilities could be as much as €600,000, excluding costs associated with each installation including civil works, connections to water supplies and drainage.

Hemmings said he believes that by examining an alternative serviced option involving contracting third parties, Dublin City Council does not want responsibility for operating public toilets. 

‘Done Properly’ 

Hemmings’ Party colleague, Councillor Hazel Chu, said that the council should provide public toilets, particularly for the city’s homeless population. 

“You and I could probably blag our way into a pub… but if you’re homeless you can’t really do that,” said Chu. 

Chu said the idea behind the council’s plan should involve providing staff to maintain public toilets. “From a business point of view it’s a positive having public toilets,” said Chu. “But it will always come down to who looks after them.”

“If the City Council does not have revenue to provide a proper service that is an issue,” said Chu.

“Currently we don’t have proper revenue to provide for enforcement of dog littering and street-cleaning. So if we’re going to do this, it has to be done properly,” she said.

It is not yet clear where serviced public toilets would be located in Dublin, a council spokesperson said. 

“There are various issues to be considered in the final assessment of these options including planning requirements, the availability of suitable locations and the ongoing costs of providing facilities that will be incurred,” they said. 

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