Temple Bar Square

The revamp of Temple Bar Square should be complete by the end of the year, a council official said earlier this week. 

The new-look square should also include a colourful piece of artwork in the pavement, said Philip Dunne, senior executive engineer with Dublin City Council.

The stone design is around 1.2m in diameter, has been made in the United Kingdom, and is due to be shipped to Dublin soon.

“Without giving the game away, it’s in different colour stone. It is completely flat and it will just tie in with the paving,” said Dunne, at a meeting of the South East Area Committee on Monday 9 October. 

Councillors first voted through plans to revamp Temple Bar Square back in 2017, agreeing a vision that if built would have pedestrianised roads around the square and made the central public space bigger. 

In 2021 though, that design was scrapped by the council, a decision criticised by architect Michael Pike who called it a retrograde step. The about-face was down to a disagreement between the roads and parks department, he said. 

The works now underway on the civic space include repaving the square, installing new lighting and benches, and planting trees.

Despite this history, councillors on Monday welcomed the current works. “I think it’s an exceptional civic space being designed here,” said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn. 

He hopes the square won’t be taken over by tables and chairs from pubs and cafés, he said, and that the book market that used to be there on Saturdays will return.

When the square is finished, the council plans to widen footpaths in Crown Alley and Temple Bar Street, said Dunne, which should take 18 to 24 months.

Call for audit of Dublin Region Homeless Executive

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) has questions to answer, given the financial issues at the charity Peter McVerry Trust, said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn at Monday’s South East Area Committee meeting.

In a motion to the committee, Flynn said the council’s audit committee should look at all the “monies, financial assistance and properties that were given to the Peter McVerry Trust by Dublin City Council over the past number of years”.

In response, Karl Mitchell, a council director of services, said the DRHE was engaged in a process with Peter McVerry Trust, and the Department of Housing about the financial and governance matters identified by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

And, “The DRHE is in the process of tendering for audits across all bodies given grants under Section 10 of the Housing Act, 1988 as part of good governance,” he said.  

The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority launched an investigation into the Peter McVerry Trust on 26 February.

Flynn says there needs to be full transparency around how public money is spent and the council needs to be more on its game.

Some councillors on the committee said they shared his concerns. Others said it would be better to await the results of other investigations. 

“I have huge misgivings,” says Fine Gael Councillor Paddy McCartan, who pointed out that 75 percent of the trust’s income is public money. 

Peter McVerry Trust bought a building on Baggot Street for €6 million, he said, using funding from DRHE. There were planning issues with that building, which have not been resolved, and the building is now sitting idle, says McCartan. 

There needs to be full transparency, said Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan, but he doesn’t agree as yet that the DRHE has any case to answer.

There is no evidence thus far that they didn’t respond speedily when they became aware of problems, said Geoghegan. “I think it would be premature to make those statements, but absolutely we need all of the facts to come out here.” 

Green Party Councillor Hazel Chu said the motion should be discussed further at the council’s homelessness sub-committee of the housing committee. “I would refrain from making any accusations until we have the facts.”

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, who chairs the South East Area Committee, said that he supports the work of the approved housing bodies.

If anything went wrong within the DRHE, that should be explored. “I support an enquiry taking place into what happened,” he said.

“My dealings with the DRHE on behalf of very, very vulnerable people, they always respond in an extraordinarily helpful, sensitive, kind and decent manner,” said Lacey. 

The DRHE paid millions to the Peter McVerry Trust, says Flynn. That spending of public money now needs to be audited. “It’s just about transparency and openness,” he said. 

Councillors agreed that the motion should be referred to the housing committee. 

Leaving parks open at night

Councillors on the South East Area Committee also called for a small park on Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh to be locked at night. 

Night-time activities in the park are disturbing neighbours, they said.

Lacey, the Labour councillor, put forward a motion asking for the change. He supports leaving some parks open at night, like Herbert Park, but others should be shut, he said.

“This is a railed park in the middle of a residential area within feet of people’s houses,” he said. “And it is being used at night-time in a way that is not suitable.”

“There is a major concern about an increase of anti-social behaviour as a result of it not being locked at night,” said Geoghegan, the Fine Gael councillor. 

Local residents would be willing to take responsibility for locking and opening the park themselves, he said “I think a meeting at this stage on-site, with residents and with parks to see if we can try to broker some sort of a solution.”

An official council response said that most city parks are not locked, which some councillors said was surprising. 

Also, Dartmouth Square “is attended to six days a week and there has not been any noticeable increase in anti-social behaviour”, said the response to Lacey’s motion. 

McCartan, the Fine Gael councillor, wondered how the council staff could know if there had been anti-social behaviour in a park at night. “I would say that the residents know better about what is happening there at night.”

Fianna Fáil Councillor Claire O’Connor says she would like to see a list of which parks are open at night and which are closed. 

Chu, the Green Party councillor, asked for that list too and that it should include who is in charge of closing and opening each park.

Councillors should decide council policy, said Lacey, and each park needs to be looked at individually.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at lneylon@dublininquirer.com.

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