Council Briefs: The Pride Parade Route, Playgrounds, and Free Public Wifi

Play Development Strategy

People shouldn’t have to go further than 800 metres to get to a neighbourhood playground, said Deborah Clarke, Dublin City Council’s play development officer.

“A 5- to 10-minute walk,” she said at Monday’s meeting of the council’s arts, culture and recreation committee.

Councillors at the meeting backed a draft plan to improve infrastructure for play areas in the city.

The council wants to bring in a play plan, to improve leisure facilities for children and teens. Its budget for 2019 has €550,000 set aside for playground infrastructure.

Right now, there are 57 playgrounds in parks managed by Dublin City Council, and 64 more managed by the council’s housing department, the draft plan says.

The council has drawn up what is needed and where, based in part on census figures that show where there are deficits, based on the number of children, the draft plan says.

Many councillors at the meeting spoke of the need to engage with teenagers and make sure they have places to hang out.

“There really is a proliferation of teens, you know, knocking about, like we all did. But I don’t know what alternatives we have for them,” said Labour Party Councillor Aine Clancy.

“Fundamentally, it comes down to making the city centre a safe place for teenagers,” said committee member Willie White.

Sinn Féin Councillor Greg Kelly said some young people in his area, Ballyfermot-Drimnagh, tend to hang around shops. How can the council “engage with them and get them into play spaces”? he asked.

Clarke said it was about creating a place for teenagers to be together and have social interactions.

Staff in the Parks Department have consultant with teenagers to see what they’d like, she said.

Facilities need to be inclusive for for differently-abled children too, said some councillors. Fianna Fáil Councillor Claire O’Connor said play elements needed to address the needs of children experiencing sensory and communication issues.

The draft Dublin City Play Plan does include more inclusive play areas.

Playground upgrades to improve accessibility might include modifying existing equipment, wider slides, and wheelchair-accessible merry-go-rounds, said Clarke.

Final approval of the Dublin City Play Plan Implementation Strategy is expected in May or June 2019, according to the draft document.

Once launched, it will be monitored and reviewed over a six-year period.

Free Wifi

Which neighbourhoods will get free wifi?

Dublin City Council was granted four vouchers last year, worth €15,000 each, under an EU programme to fund free public wifi. That funding is also being topped up by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

The issue came up at Monday’s arts, culture and recreation committee meeting.

“I don’t think there’s a councillor that wouldn’t want it … It would be a good initiative for any community,” said committee chair Vincent Jackson, an independent councillor.

Talking about which areas would benefit from the vouchers, councillors focused on public places like libraries, parks, community centres and squares.

A council report says the council has 18 months to figure out where the free wifi should go, and get it set up.

First, the report says, councillors, members of the public, and others will get to weigh in on where might benefit most from the free hotspots.

Areas with gaps in public wifi would be considered, as would areas where teenagers might be supported as a result of free and public internet access, it says.

“That should be the way forward,” said Jackson.

“It will certainly benefit older people and can make services a bit more accessible to them,” said Labour Councillor Mary Freehill.

Under the programme, local authorities that get the vouchers are to keep the free wifi online for a minimum of three years, the report said.

The consultation on where the free wifi hotspots should go will kick off later this month. They expect to be getting it up and running in autumn 2019.

Pride Parade Routes

This year’s Dublin Pride parade shouldn’t have to duck down side streets, said a motion put forward by Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne.

It should be routed from the Garden of Remembrance and right on down O’Connell Street, her motion said.

Councillors on the arts, culture and recreation committee backed her motion unanimously on Monday.

“The Patrick’s Day festival and any sort of large protests tend to take that route,” Byrne said. “Pride are trying to argue that they should be allowed to take that route as well.”

The Pride parade used to start at O’Connell Street, as recently as 2016. However, that changed in 2017 to accommodate Luas Cross City works.

Arts committee chair Jackson said he hoped the council would meet with the parade organisers “and look again at the parade route in a sympathetic way”.

“There shouldn’t be a difficulty in letting them use the primary routes,” he said.

The event is due to be issued its licence in the coming weeks.

Last year, the parade route began at St Stephen’s Green and went along Cuffe Street, Kevin Street, Patrick Street, and Nicholas Street, before crossing Fr Matthew Bridge and heading along to Smithfield.

“It’s such an important annual event and if we’re really serious about integrating it into the city’s large events then I think we need to be supportive of it,” said Byrne.

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