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Councillors debate plans to divert through traffic away from Dublin city centre

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DUBLIN CITY COUNCILLORS have debated a plan that will divert through traffic away from Dublin city centre.

Last week Minister for Climate and Transport Eamon Ryan said changes to road layouts around busy areas in the city centre will be seen from August.

Initially the council were to vote on the plan this evening but at the beginning of its monthly meeting tonight it was decided a discussion would take place considering the Minister’s comments last week.

The Council was divided in its views on the plan. A number of councillors criticised the public consultation process, arguing that it had only been done online and should have been more transparent, while others said that it was too late to complain about the process now. 

Media coverage of the traffic plan also came in for particular criticism from many councillors, especially the framing of the debate and use of sensationalist language in describing the plans impacts.

A contribution from the Social Democrats, who welcomed the plan, described some of the coverage as “hysterical”.

“Some of the language I’ve witnessed in this debate has not been helpful,” said Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan. 

Much of the focus of the debate centred on how well-informed the public are regarding the traffic plan and how successful the public consultation process was. 

Independent councillor Damian O’Farrell said survey questions were “loaded” and asked if the Council would stand over the survey that made up part of the process. 

Mannix Flynn, also an independent, said the consultation was “deeply flawed” and that the traffic plan would “completely undermine the city”. 

“The way in which the consultation was done could have been better,” said Sinn Féin’s Janice Boylan, adding that there has been some misinformation about the process in the media. 

The Green Party’s Claire Byrne said: “It’s too late to criticise the process now.”

She said that based on the substance of the debate, it was clear that “nobody has actually read the Climate Action Plan”, which sets out targets related to things like road use and air quality. 

Byrne said it was also the responsibility of councillors to keep their communities informed. 

Byrne’s Green Party colleague Janet Horner said “there is no perfect way” to consult with the public but noted that councillors had not engaged in the process when it was being carried out.

“The only reps that contributed to the consultation process were Green Party reps,” she said. “It’s frustrating to hear the process criticised long after it has concluded.”  

Fianna Fail’s James Geoghegan said that criticism of the process was legitimate but said used his time to stress the need to improve bus services by reducing congestion. 

The Dublin City Centre Transport Plan, announced last year, is aiming to reduce the number of cars clogging up city centre streets but not bringing any custom to businesses.

It estimated that six out of every ten cars are using the city centre streets only as a route to reach a destination outside of the centre. It suggests that moving this traffic out of the city would not impact economic activity or cultural life in the area.

The plan set out that Pearse Street from Westland Row to Sandwith Street would become a two-way road and the left-hand turn onto Pearse Street – for traffic travelling north along Westland Row – would be restricted to public transport and cyclists only.

A new right-hand turn would be created for general traffic at that junction. Several other changes to road layouts have been proposed and put to public consultation under the plan.

Some road layout changes will also take place around Bachelor’s Walk and Aston Quay.

Efforts to cut traffic in Dublin city centre are motivated by wants to both reduce congestion and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, which must be cut by 50% in at least the next seven years to comply with legally binding climate targets.

Thousands of scientists around the world have repeatedly warned policymakers that without immediate and substantial action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the world faces a climate crisis devastating and irreversible consequences.

Includes reporting by Lauren Boland and David Mac Redmond

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