Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan has defended the decision to reopen gates at the Phoenix Park which had closed during the pandemic.
The decision was made, he said, to allow the OPW to monitor traffic congestion on the western side of the park in recent weeks.
“I would love to see the Phoenix Park maintained for park use only, but I'm also very conscious of the fact that the western side of Dublin has grown up around the park and whether we like it or not for an awful lot of people it is a commuter route,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney show.
The park was a commuter route for people from Longford, Westmeath, Meath and parts of Dublin, he said.
“What I've asked the OPW is to initiate a proper consultation that's going to begin in the coming weeks.
“The OPW had actually started this process with traffic management counts and some people will see the infrastructure through the OPW or through the park itself where the OPW was trying to count how many actual travel movements are there through the park because we don't even have that level of data.”
Mr O’Donovan said he had received emails and calls for and against the issue, and that he was committed to the reduction of traffic in the park.
“But we can't just ignore the fact that the traffic volumes are growing as the economy reopens and we also can't ignore the fact that by the end of August the schools are going to be reopened and we would then be dragged into a decision, probably in haste, to open the gates without knowing what impact it's going to have in the longer term.
“What we want to do is work with the local authorities, the public representatives, Dublin Bus, TFI and local residents as well to see how this park will develop into the future.
“The one good thing is this pandemic has forced us to look at the park in a completely different way because everybody that has contacted me, whether they're in favour of the gates being opened or closed - they all acknowledge the fact that the pandemic has forced us to look at the park in a different way.
“I want to initiate a process where the future of the park is looked at. I want to see traffic volumes reduced.”
Mr O’Donovan acknowledged that many people were angry that the gates had been closed.
“A lot of people work in the park, over 3,000 people work in the park, some are health care professionals, some are security professionals - who had to go different routes and were angry at the way in which the gates were closed without any consultation either.”
While he would like to see a reduction in traffic in the park, he pointed out that it is a thoroughfare, “it is the lungs of Dublin but unfortunately it has also become an artery and over time we need to reduce that but we need to be realistic and I'm committed to working with people to do that.”