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Dublin: 12°C Friday 12 August 2022

Taoiseach's constituency office contacted DCC over objections to Papal visit

An objection sent to the Taoiseach said road closures inflicted ‘unnecessary hardship on local residents’.

Pope Francis and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sit in Dublin Castle.
Pope Francis and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sit in Dublin Castle.
Image: Maxwells

THE TAOISEACH’S CONSTITUENCY office passed specific complaints about the Pope’s visit to Dublin from a local resident to a senior manager within Dublin City Council (DCC), new documents can reveal.

The documents, released under the Freedom of Information, show objections to “unprecedented and unwarranted” road closures that were in place during the Pope’s two-day visit in August.

Mass road closures that took place in the capital during the visit were unmatched even by the standards of other visits, such as those by Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama, and affected four different days

The scale of the closures prompted objections to DCC, with some in the vicinity of Phoenix Park saying they were “excessive”.

Ahead of the visit, it was estimated that half-a-million people would attend a public Mass in Phoenix Park but the event attracted under a third of that figure

Newly released emails that were sent between officials in DCC two weeks ahead of the visit have now shown that the Taoiseach’s constituency office contacted the council about the objections. 

The Taoiseach’s Dublin West constituency includes the areas of Ashtown and Castleknock beside Phoenix Park. 

One such email sent to DCC assistant chief executive Dick Brady asked that objections to the closures be examined and that the Taoiseach be provided with a response.

The email was sent by Peter Lenehan using the email

“The Taoiseach has asked if the points raised could be examined and if he could be advised of the position,” the email stated.

The objection in question came from a resident of Blackhorse Avenue who stated that they would be: “Effectively cordoned off and locked in my estate from 6am to 11pm and unable to exit to go about my usual Sunday activities in the local area.”

The objection listed a number of “typical activities” the resident would be unable to engage in and said the event,

“inflicts unnecessary hardship on local residents, effectively making them prisoners in their homes.”

“Please reconsider the extent, duration and application of the road closures with a view to making appropriate provision for local residents to continue their usual activities in the area with minimal disturbance and restrictions,” the objection concludes. 

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croke An aerial view of the crowd at Phoenix Park. Source: PA Images

The objection was sent from the Taoiseach’s constituency office on 9 August and emails show that in the days that followed officials within DCC worked on a draft response.

The response sent on 16 August said that while DCC had received the road closure application regarding the Papal visit, the OPW has been engaging with residential communities about the closures.

Other objections

A number of other objections to the road closures were also received by DCC ahead the Papal visit, including complaints about the length of time the restrictions were in place.

One stated:

The mass is not until late afternoon so the length is excessive and the concentration of closures too widespread. It is unclear how local access will run, the “as far as possible” gives no confidence, the notices also imply the gardaí can make even more closures on an intermittent basis if they want to, will we have car passes, will we go out but not be let back?

Another complaint mentioned that Phoenix Park area is frequently asked to deal with road closures:

“We have just had Prince Harry restrictions. We have had numerous road races (excluding the very dangerous Iron Man last year), we have the rock and roll half marathon next weekend (it’s closures are more tolerable at 3 hours), Farmleigh traffic issues this weekend and most weekends in the summer, Bloom, Ed Sheeran, now the Pope. It is unfair, excessive and unnecessary.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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