BY AMY ROHU
Residents have expressed concern as Dartry Park has become a training ground for the Ranelagh Gaels GAA club.
Locals were horrified this week as three trees were removed from the park to make way for the pitch, leading to what some term “a divide in the community.”
Ranelagh Gaels, which has over 900 juvenile players, had been looking for somewhere consistent to call their ‘home’ and have settled on the park which is surrounded by residential properties and used daily by locals.
The club sought help from local councilors in locating a pitch for their burgeoning young membership.
However residents and park users are upset, claiming no public consultation was held to discuss the move before changes were made to the landscape.
Arguments have been put forward that the scale of the pitch is too big for the park. They also highlight the proximity to the path which they claim make it ‘not fit for purpose.’
Health and Safety issues have also been raised, with the worry that an ambulance couldn’t access the area easily if an emergency happened during training.
Tanya Ferri uses the park on a regular basis and acknowledges the chronic shortage of green spaces in Dublin:. “The park is relatively small, it’s used by families, for picnics, joggers and dog-walkers. Over the last 18 months it’s been used a lot by so many people in the vicinity,” she explained.
She said the residents recognise the need for sport in the area and its importance to the community, however, one of the main issues arising from the situation, is that no public consultation was sought.
“I was concerned at that stage that the public space should be protected, particularly in the middle of a pandemic, when it is relied upon so heavily. The next thing I heard was that councilors had agreed with Dublin City Council that the park could be used by the GAA club.”
The club has been using the park for a number of years on and off, including over the summer, but some more permanent fixtures were put in place over the last few weeks, spiking concern once again.
“In order for the pitch to be put in, the club requested that three trees be cut down, when this happened this week it caused a lot of upset within the community.”
Tanya added: “Ranelagh Gaels have a right to find a place and park users also have the right to use a public park for their own recreational use. Because there was no consultation on this process, people feel that the priority was given to the GAA club and not the large majority of people who use the park.
I think it is up to us to come together as a community and no longer have division over the issue.”
Ranelagh Gaels have said that the pitch was previously used as a sports facility before the juvenile sized pitch in Dartry was put in. The club said it respected other users’ of the park and hoped those groups would also do the same for them.
Joe Davitt, Chairperson of Ranelagh Gaels said: “We don’t have a pitch of our own and we have limited access to facilities all over the area. We don’t have access to a full-time pitch during the week so we have been using this pitch so we had somewhere we could play our games in.”
Speaking about the issues arising from the trees being removed and concerns about false information circulating as a result of the dispute, Joe continued: “There were three trees removed to facilitate the pitch being built but there are six trees being replanted as a result of the removal.
One of the main concerns which both sides agree on, is that Ranelagh Gaels doesn’t have a permanent home that is specifically designed for them.
Local Cllr Dermot Lacey said that while he understands the mutual interests have some conflict, other issues could be examined too, such as parking and toilets.
He added: “The general matter of Ranelagh Gaels and the overall shortage of pitches has been discussed at many meetings over the last several years.”
Dublin City Council who are also involved, have said: “Ranelagh Gaels sought and were allocated the use of the open space at Dartry Park for a playing pitch. This allocation is for a period of one year. Three small trees had to be removed to facilitate the pitch, however replacement planting will be carried out in the park.”