GREEN PARTY LEADER Eamon Ryan has said local councils need to “get the message” that an “outdoor summer” is what is required and that funding is available from government to provide waste services.
The comments from the Transport and Environment Minister come after large numbers of people gathered for recreation in Dublin and other cities over the weekend as pubs and restaurants remain closed under Covid-19 restrictions.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan had hit out at the scenes with Dublin City Council criticising the litter left behind by the crowds.
A DCC spokesperson said yesterday that the provision of extra bins and toilets at busy city centre locations would “drive more footfall and create more of an issue” from a public health perspective.
Speaking today however, Ryan said that funding has been made available to local councils to create safe outdoor spaces for people.
“I think it is really important that councils get the message that we want it outdoors this summer, they have to create safe spaces for people to eat. You can’t shut down those spaces, we’ve got to spread them out and have more spaces as a way of managing if it’s crowded in one area,” the minister said.
Ryan said a number of initiatives have been launched by Culture Minister Catherine Martin to provide allocations to local authorities to “create those outdoor dining or entertainment spaces”.
“My own department, the Department of Transport, provided a €15 million fund for local authorities, saying if you need to spend money to pedestrianise streets or create a safe space we will provide it.
We also provide funding for waste services, if you need to provide extra litter bins or any other services we will fund and support that. So the message to local authorities is clear, we need to create safe spaces in the open for our people this summer.
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Ryan added that he believed that it was a matter of will by local authorities.
“The resources are there, I think political will at a local level is what is needed to actually reallocate space to create this outdoor summer. Do it quickly,” he said.
In a series of tweets this afternoon, Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu said she has been in discussions with the Chief Executive of DCC and that there will be “more facilities in place this weekend”.
I'll be following up with Gardai on what the plan is this weekend. From an events background I'm talking about crowd management, how to filter to various streets so its not all one street. Have also asked for more bins, toilets & will be asking OPW for later opening of the green.
— Hazel Chu (@hazechu) June 1, 2021
Speaking at this morning’s launch of the government’s Covid-19 stimulus plan, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that local authorities have “responded differently” to the call for more outdoor spaces and that the government wants “a more uniform approach”.
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“Some local authorities have moved very quickly in terms of pedestrianisation of streets. For example I don’t want to mention my own city again but it did well so far to date, there are about 15 streets pedestrianised and announced very, very quickly,” he said.
“There have been initiatives in Dublin as well, so I think more can be done. And I think the Minister for Housing is anxious to provide supports wherever possible to facilitate more street friendly, amenity friendly meaningful environments.”