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“In the summertime, closing a city centre park at 6pm is nonsense,” said Lee Dillon speaking on the phone last Friday.
Dillon lives with her husband and four kids in Ranelagh. The Iveagh Gardens, off Clonmel Street in Dublin 2, is a park that they regularly use, she says.
Dillon says she emailed the Office for Public Works (OPW), which manages the park, asking them to consider extending the opening hours. “It’s just so frustrating”, she said.
Dillon, along with others have campaigned for longer hours in this city-centre park for some time now.
Renewed calls for extending opening hours were, in part, due to Covid-19 restrictions, which mean that people within a five kilometre radius of a park and without a garden need a place to unwind and take exercise.
On 28 May Dillon received an email from an OPW spokesperson saying that the opening times of Iveagh Gardens will not change.
However, as of 2 June, the OPW has changed its position, announcing via email that it will temporarily extend opening hours “due to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The Iveagh Gardens
Nestled behind the National Concert Hall, the Iveagh Gardens are a lush, green landscape in the heart of the city.
“We live near the park so we would use it fairly regularly,” says Dillon.
The first week of May was one of the many times that Dillon noticed people being ushered out of the park in the evening time.
“We just came down after the kids had finished school so it must have been around 4:30pm,” she says.
Then the wardens arrived at 6pm to ring the bell so everyone was herded out, she says.
“Some people had just arrived and it was nice just to be out. It was a beautiful summer’s evening,” says Dillon. “It seems extraordinary to be moved on”.
Prior to the change in opening hours, Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan said that he didn’t understand why the OPW didn’t align their times with Dublin City Council.
Closing times for parks managed by Dublin City Council during summer range from 9:30pm in May, to 10pm in June and July.
A Historically Earlier Closing Time
The Iveagh Gardens has historically closed earlier than other parklands throughout the city, a spokesperson for the OPW told Dillon in an email just last week.
Checks are done to ensure that there is no loitering or anti-social behaviour in the park before it is closed each day, the spokesperson said.
“I do hope you understand our position on these closing times, which is for the greater good,” the email sent on 28 May ends.
Since that email, however, the OPW has changed its stance on the issue of closing times.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Iveagh Gardens will temporarily open until 7.30 pm with effect from 2 June until mid-August,” an OPW spokesperson said in an email on Tuesday.
That means the Iveagh Gardens will now be open for an extra hour and a half in the evening.
“It’s amazing what a bit of pressure does”, says Dillon speaking over the phone on 2 June, while she watches her son playing football with a friend in Mountpleasant Square Park.
“I’m really delighted that extra 1.5 hours will make a positive difference to people’s lives,” she says in a follow-up text.
As for other parks under the remit of the OPW, such as The Phoenix Park and the Botanic Gardens: “There is no need to alter the closing times of our other Parks & Gardens,” the spokesperson said.