City councillors have again backed the controversial afternoon car ban on Cork's main street with one suggesting that those who are constantly talking negatively about it are cutting their own throats.
FF Cllr Terry Shannon made the comment at Monday's council meeting which debated a motion from his party colleague, Tim Brosnan, calling for the City Centre Movement Strategy (CCMS) to be suspended, and another motion from Independent Cllr Paudie Dineen calling for the car ban to be lifted at weekends.
The time-regulated bus lanes on St Patrick's St, which operate 3pm to 6.30pm daily, is one of the most controversial measures of the multi-phase CCMS. Reintroduced last August, the bus lanes have sparked renewed criticism and claims that the city is dying from a new traders' group bitterly opposed to the car ban.
But Mr Shannon told the meeting that that type of negativity is "extraordinary" and "is not true".
"Those who are putting out the message that Cork is closed, they've cut their own throat," he said.
Mr Brosnan said the St Patrick's St element of the CCMS just isn't working: "There is no advantage or benefit to having it while phases two, three and four are pending."
He was backed by FF Cllr Ken O'Flynn and FG Cllr Des Cahill. Mr O'Flynn said the 'mom and pop' stores that make Cork unique are suffering, and in the absence of more park-and-ride facilities, a north ring road, and more public transport options, the afternoon car ban is like putting the "cart before the horse".
"We need to roll back on this. We need to do the right thing by the people that employ us - the ratepayers," he said.
Cllr Cahill said the traffic management measure is premature pending the other phases of the CCMS, given that more disruption is coming down the tracks from the OPW's €160m flood-defence scheme: "Why do this now to the traders? It's another obstacle in front of them."
Cllr Paudie Dineen called for a compromise - and for the bus lanes to operate Monday to Friday only, to give traders a break at the weekends.
But SF Cllr Chris O'Leary said the constant debate over the St Patrick's St element is destabilising the entire CCMS and confidence in the city, with Worker's Party Cllr Ted Tynan insisting that time will prove it is the right thing to do. FF Cllr Tom O'Driscoll said shopping trends have changed and with thousands of new city centre jobs in the pipeline, it's vital that Cork modernises its public transport system. Solidarity Cllr Fiona Ryan branded as "deeply cynical" some of the online commentaries against the bus lanes and said the voices of traders who support the CCMS need to be raised.
The council's head of transportation, Gerry O'Beirne, launched another robust defence of the CCMS and the St Patrick's St bus lanes. He said bus lanes will play a critical role in modernising the city's public transport system and the need to do so has accelerated given the scale and speed of new development in the heart of the city centre.
He said footfall is holding steady, car park figures are up, and bus passengers numbers on routes using St Patrick's St are up 12% since the bus lanes were reintroduced. And he challenged councillors to set out an alternative plan, to frame responses for investors who are pouring millions into the city centre, and to the generation of people who want to live, work and raise a family in the city centre.
They voted 15-5 in favour of his reports on both motions, effectively rejecting the two motions.