Office of Public Works junior minister Patrick O’Donovan has defended the decision to reopen the Phoenix Park to cars. But he said that in the long term he would like it restored to its original purpose – as purely for culture and recreation.
Mr O’Donovan committed to a public consultation on the long-term management of the park, which he said would take into account the views of users and neighbours. The minister said if there were measures that could reasonably be taken in the short term, such as designated car-free periods, he was open to those ideas too. He was responding to criticism after the sudden reopening last week of all but one of the park’s perimeter gates, which were closed because of Covid-19 restrictions, leaving access only to pedestrians and cyclists.
The OPW indicated last month that the closure would continue after positive reaction from members of the public, but that position was reversed on Thursday. There were some complaints of traffic gridlock and reports of growing pressure on surrounding neighbourhoods and the urban villages of Chapelizod and Castleknock. Cycling groups reacted with dismay to the decision, and Green TD Neasa Hourigan described it as “a disappointing backward step”. Senator Marie Sherlock said civic engagement was needed to decide on future access to the Phoenix Park. ends