Lauren Larkin lives in a small terrace home in one of the cul-de-sacs that makes up the warren of streets known as Rialto Cottages.
It’s just south of the site of the big new children’s hospital and of the red Luas line. “Our area is really built up as it is. We are really hemmed in now by the hospital,” Larkin says.
The homes on the cul-de-sac do have the possibility of an oasis, though.
They face onto a small oval green space which is overgrown with trees and shrubs and grass and enclosed in old black railings.
Although it’s unkempt, Larkin would like to be able to use the space, she says.
“A green space would be a little bit of calm in the middle of a storm in Rialto with all the builders.”
But residents can’t get into the small green space. It’s locked.
Larkin moved to Rialto seven years ago, she says. At the time, a couple living opposite had the deeds to the green space, she says.
That couple moved about three years back, though. A new neighbour took over the green space, she says.
Insurance worries mean they don’t want to unlock the gate and open the space up, she says – which she understands.
“I’d probably do the same myself if somebody sued me over a broken arm or something,” says Larkin.
Larkin wants the council to buy it, something she says her neighbour is amenable to. There are outstanding questions, though, around who owns the lease and what’s in the deeds, she says.
“It’s kind of like a murder mystery,” Larkin says. Except instead of who did it? The question is who owns it?
With no green space in the back gardens of these Rialto Cottages, Larkin has to take her son further afield to the Phoenix Park or the War Memorial Gardens, she says. Those are roughly 2km away.
For years, Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey has pressed the council to step in and buy two other private green spaces in the city.
“I have had several motions on Fitzwilliam Square Park,” says Lacey. The park on Pembroke Street can only be accessed by local residents and businesses in the square.
“In my view that there is no case in the modern world for it to be privately owned, none whatsoever,” says Lacey.
Lacey says that Scully’s Field, a green space in Milltown that is privately owned, should be opened up too.
“It’s along the Dodder. I’ve long been championing that Dublin City Council would develop it and then purchase it,” Lacey says.
The council has shown no interest in buying the green space, he says.
From Private to Public
Private parks can be made public in a few ways, Lacey says – by compulsory purchase order, or voluntary surrender, or agreed purchase.
A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said that the council has no plans to acquire any private parks or open spaces right now.
“Any such acquisition would have to be brought before the Councils [sic] elected representatives for approval,” they said.
In Rialto, residents are in contact with the council to get the park to try to make the park public.
“The council have said that they are going to get their legal department to look into the deeds and the registry,” Larkin says.
That’s a challenge right now.
Councillors and officials have told Larkin that they’ll need to look at deeds in person. “And of course you can’t do that during Covid,” she says.
“That’s why these things go unchased for so long because you come up against so much red tape,” says Larkin.